Nov 302013
 

DHCN have written to express their concerns about the sentencing in the recent murder case of Bijan Ebrahimi. This is their letter.

Dear Mr Grieve,

As co-ordinators of the Disability Hate Crime Network we would like the Attorney General to review the sentences handed down today to Lee James and Steven Norley in the case of Bijan Ebrahimi, a disabled Iranian man who was falsely accused of paedophila by a mob, and then burnt to death two days later in July 2013.

James pleaded guilty to murder and was given a sentence of 18 years. Norley pleaded guilty to assisting an offender and was given four years.

It is not thought that the police or the Crown Prosecution Service had asked the judge to enhance the sentence because of disability hostility, which would have meant that the judge could enhance Norley’s sentence under sec 146 of the CJA 2005 and James’s sentence under LASPO 2013 (the first of its kind). At any rate, the sentences are perceived by disabled people and other affected groups to be extremely low, given the overwhelming violence and sadism in the murder.

The reason we believe that increasing the sentences is critically important is that Mr Ebrahimi was falsely accused of paedophilia, as have been a number of other disabled murder victims, a trend first highlighted by Katharine Quarmby in her book Scapegoat (2011) and then further identified and stressed in Hidden in Plain Sight, a report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in 2011.

The report stated of the false accusation of paedophilia against disabled people that police should “recognise the high level of risk faced by disabled people who have been labelled as ‘paedophiles’. This was not done by Avon and Somerset Police – if it had been done Mr Ebrahimi would not have been returned to his flat after being threatened by a mob chanting ‘paedophile’. The report further stated that this false accusation was ‘used as a term for targeting a disabled person, sometimes with extreme violence’, as happened in the Ebrahimi case and in at least seven other prominent cases identified by Quarmby and the EHRC. As this is, therefore, a recognised form of disability hate crime we call on the Attorney General to consider enhancing these sentences as hate crimes. This would mean that the murder would be the first one to reach the 30 year starting point under LASPO for a murder motivated by hostility towards a victim’s disability. (The Disability Hate Crime Network worked with Paul Maynard MP and Kate Green MP, the Shadow Disability Minister, to help effect this reform.)

We hope that the Attorney General will urgently review these lamentably light sentences in the light of this evidence.

Yours faithfully,

Co-ordinators, the Disability Hate Crime Network

 

 Posted by at 12:43
Nov 292013
 

Please write to your MP urgently, asking them to save the Independent Living Fund which exists to help disabled people who need the highest levels of support. You can contact your MP easily through this website: www.writetothem.com.

Below is a message and links to a video from Mary, who is directly affected by welfare cuts. At the end of this email is a template you can use when writing to your MP.

Dear friends,
I’m writing to let you know about an emergency that is happening to disabled people in the UK right now as you read this email.

Some of Britain’s most disabled people – including me – are facing losing our right to living independent lives. The Independent Living Fund is a pot of money that helps disabled people who need the highest levels of support to do more than just exist.

But David Cameron’s government has already closed the ILF to new applicants – and now he wants to stop it for the group of 18,500 people who already receive it.

That will mean people like me will end up sitting alone looking out of the window for most of the day unable to even go to the toilet. Until now, despite being severely disabled by rheumatoid arthritis and unable to walk or use my hands or arms, I’ve been able to live a fulfilling life. In 2012 I was a Gamesmaker, and I carried the Olympic torch. Now, I will be imprisoned at home, and will even have to give up my beloved dogs Jack and Molly.

At 66 years old, severely disabled, and totally human and wheelchair dependent, I have found myself looking at the deep pond at the bottom of my garden, no longer wanting to live. My weight has dropped down from 9 stone to 6 stone.

But I didn’t want to just sit around feeling sorry for myself, so I asked campaigners to make a film about me. The trailer is right here. But you can also watch the whole 15 minute film by going to http://vimeo.com/79330726

You can read my full story by going to www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ros-wynne-jones-column-mary-laver-2855221

It’s not just the ILF the whole of social care provision is in crisis. Sooner or later this will affect most of you if you become disabled or when you get older.

Disabled people are also under attack from the Bedroom Tax, from the flawed Work Capability Assessment process and ATOS’ reviled tests, from the abolition of Disability Living Allowance,from cuts to council tax benefit and Benefit Caps.

We wonder what we’ve done to deserve it. We aren’t the ones who caused the banking crisis. But it seems as if we are the ones who are paying for it.

We wanted you to know what’s happening to disabled people under ‘Austerity’, because we thought if you did you’d want to campaign with us about it.

If you do, please write to your MP urgently, asking them to save the ILF. You can send them a letter at the House of Commons, or email them via www.theyworkforyou.com.

And please forward this email to everyone you know.

Mary Laver

You could use this as a template:

Dear MP,
The government has already been found guilty of illegally deciding to close the Independent Living Fund and now have to remake their decision. I believe that closing this fund would violate the human rights of disabled people who have the highest support needs to live independently in the community. Closure of the ILF would not only force disabled people back into residential care homes but also cause the UK to breach its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

I urge you to watch this video, which gives a very real idea of how important this fund is, and to do everything you can to save this vital fund: http://vimeo.com/79330726

Nov 282013
 

It’s been a busy few days for DPAC gathering evidence on the cumulative impact of cuts on disabled people, and on the crisis in independent living.  On the 25th we heard moving and powerful testimonies of how the Government are ruining lives through their austerity regime. Disabled people are faced with a range of cuts and so called ‘reforms’ which are contravening our basic human rights. We are faced with stark choices between eating or heating while having our dignity stripped by a range of psychological attacks at the same time as having support removed.

 Testimonies will be sent to the UN rapporteur on disability-thanks to everybody who came to London to tell their stories and to those that submitted their experiences through email. This event was originally arranged by Just Fair, however due to the rapporteur being unable to come to the UK due to illness DPAC and Inclusion London stepped in to run this at the last minute, so we could get these important stories out to the UN.

On the 26th the morning saw a hugely successful protest on fuel poverty organised by DPAC, Fuel Poverty Action, the Greater London Pensioners and UKUncut: ‘Bring down the Big Six – Fuel Poverty Kills!’ against the increase in fuel poverty deaths and increasing profits and prices of the big 6. Supporting groups included No Dash for Gas, Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Revolution, Young Friends of the Earth, Frack Off London, Power for the People, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Lewes Against the Cuts, SOAS Energy & Climate Change Society and Southwest Against Nuclear. There were also protests in Oxford, Lewes and Bristol.

In the afternoon of the 26th the Emergency meeting on the crisis in independent living took place at parliament hosted by DPAC and Inclusion London.  An event originally planned by Just Fair to launch their report to the UN rapporteur which DPAC and Inclusion London stepped in to run with a new focus on the crisis in independent living.  This was in response to the successful appeal outcome at the courts on the Independent Living Fund-and the continuing awareness of the crisis for ILF users, those trying to access local authority support and the Government’s apparent non-compliance with article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The afternoon launched DPAC’s report on the crisis in independent living and cumulative impacts of the cuts, one of many that DPAC is working on, as well as the film by Mary Laver an ILF user. The afternoon was complimented by speeches from John Evans and reflection on the past battles for independent living.  We heard from the brilliant Louise Whitfield (one of the solicitors in the ILF case) and were treated to an excellent DPAC theatre performance which brought to life the reality of impacts on disabled people and the different barriers we face.

Despite extremely short notice the event was well attended by MPs and those from the Lords. Kate Green , Hywell Williams, Katy Clarke, Anne Begg, John McDonnell, Jim Shannon, Andy Slaughter, Baroness  Campbell, Baroness Wilkins  and a host of others including Mary Laver’s MP.  Apologies were sent from Anne McGuire, Caroline Lucas, Lucy Powell, Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa Pierce

Mike Penning ‘our’ new minister for disability was invited but did not respond or send apologies!

Many thanks to all that attended, supported and worked so hard towards the afternoon-especially the many DPAC members and supporters that wrote to their MPs and publicised this. Some may ask why English national formal disability organisations with much more money and resources than us aren’t putting their energies into these types of activities all the time- we don’t have any answers or understanding on that.

We will have a more detailed report on the Emergency meeting on the Crisis in Independent Living event in Parliament with film and photos soon

Download DPAC report Crisis in Disabled People’s Independent Living 

See Mary Laver’s film on ILF View the movie

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Nov 282013
 

ALLFIE NEEDS YOU!

Please sign our petition calling for

Lord Nash and the Govt to put back

the guidance on Inclusive Education

into the SEN Code Practice

The Government are threatening to turn back the clock for disabled children and young people with SEN by placing them back into special schools – BREAKING AN ELECTION PROMISE to parents who were told by David Cameron that he would do all that he could to help parents who want their children included in mainstream. Disabled people know through experience that segregated education does not work if we want to live together in society as respected adults.

The Government have removed all the guidance for Local Authorities and schools on inclusive education in their revised SEN Code of Practice which accompanies the new Children and Families Bill. The Guidance helps schools to do inclusion well.

WE KNOW INCLUSION WORKS, enabling thousands of disabled children to access a mainstream education where they can learn, make friends and feel they belong in their local communities – something which is impossible in even the best resourced special schools. Removing this guidance will waste over 20 years of painstaking development in the field of inclusion, leaving the coast clear for the rapid expansion of separate and privatised schools and colleges which is already underway. Parents will lose confidence in the ability of the mainstream to make safe and appropriate arrangements for their children and young people, and will feel they have no option but to accept segregation.

We must stop them now!

Lord Nash has responsibility for steering The Bill and the Code through the House of Lords where amendments can still be made before the final vote. ALLFIE has been trying to get a meeting with Lord Nash but he has either ignored or denied our requests – our patience has now run out! Let us take thousands of signatures to Lord Nash on the 10th December and show him that we will not accept a return to the mistakes of the past which are now threatening a whole new generation of young disabled people and those with Special Educational Needs.

PLEASE Sign the petition and say NO RETURN TO SEGREGATION!

Lord Nash, Department for Education: Government must put back all the guidance on Inclusive Education in the Special Educational Needs Code of Practice so Schools and College can be better at including disabled children and young people<http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/lord-nash-department-for-education-government-must-put-back-all-the-guidance-on-inclusive-education-in-the-special-educational-needs-code-of-practice-so-schools-and-college-can-be-better-at-including-disabled-children-and-young-people?utm_source=guides&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=petition_created>
Once you have signed it please forward to all of your networks.

Alliance for Inclusive Education

Nov 262013
 

I am a member of Barnet Alliance for Public Services (BAPS)  and also the Campaign Against the Destruction Of Disabled Support Services (CADDSS) which campaigns on issues affecting Barnet residents and is supported by BAPS.

We have been monitoring Your Choice Barnet, a local authority trading company, created by the London Borough of Barnet in 2012, to run six services providing care and support to adults with learning difficulties, autism and sensory and physical disabilities.    Your Choice Barnet is in financial difficulties and this has led to staff restructuring, use of zero hours contracts and employing agency staff and a severe deterioration in some services.  CADDSS and BAPS have supported one councillor who asked for a review of Your Choice Barnet.  A council committee agreed to create a Task and Finish Group to prepare a report.  The report has now been published and will be presented to the Safeguarding  Scrutiny and Overview Committee on Wednesday, 27 November 2013 at 7.0pm at Hendon Town Hall, The Burroughs, London NW4.  Unfortunately the report is a whitewash and has failed the people who use these services and their families.

This the link to the agenda and documents for this meeting published on the council website http://barnet.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=196&MId=6591&Ver=4

Some members of BAPS/CADDSS have applied to make comments and will be submitting written questions.  We also intend to stand inside the town hall in the main entrance and lobby/protest as the councillors and officers go up to the meeting.  The plan is to assemble from 6.0 pm onwards.  We are concerned that we should have plenty of supporters there.

I am sorry for letting you know so late.  Would it be possible for you to publicise this to members of DPAC to appeal for support?

Many thanks, Janet Leifer

Nov 262013
 

 

• Up to 1,000 people are taking action against the Big Six energy companies including Npower – the UK’s most complained about energy company on the day Winter Death statistics are released for 2012-2013.  1

• Anti-austerity groups including Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, Disabled People Against Cuts, and the Greater London Pensioners Association are currently outside the Npower offices in Central London

• Further protests are taking place today in Oxford, Lewes, and Bristol Acting together under the banner of ‘Bring down the Big Six – Fuel Poverty Kills!’

In London, protesters are currently Npower HQ at 60 Threadneedle Street. They are expected to deliver a coffin filled with energy bills and hold a ‘speak-out’ where those hardest hit by fuel poverty will speak of their experiences.

The protests mark the release of new figures on last winter’s ‘excess winter deaths’. Protests are also happening in Oxford-who are targeting British Gas at their new Oxford HQ, Lewes and Bristol. 2

Clare Welton of Fuel Poverty Action said: ‘The Big Six are to blame for these tragic and unjust winter deaths: their profiteering and their addiction to expensive and dirty forms of energy like oil and gas have pushed our bills up to fatal highs. People are protesting to demand the alternatives to the Big Six’s killer cartel – a combination of publicly owned and community controlled renewable energy, alongside mass insulation, would bring down the bills.’

Paddy Murphy of Disabled People Against Cuts said: ‘Another harsh winter will mean more disabled people will find themselves isolated in their homes, unable to heat them, or cook properly. Many don’t make it through. The energy firms continue to sit in government departments writing energy policy, in buildings where the heating is paid for by the very people who will die of cold this winter. This is a disgrace. We ask all disabled people to take action, and to show this government, and these
companies, that we wont take this and will fight back’.

 

1 The World Health Organisation estimate that at least 30 per cent of these excess winter deaths are due to cold homes. Source: www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file…

1 www.facebook.com/events/1415841395313806 For more info contact organiser Andy Jones, Fuel Poverty Action Oxford – 07549212088

Lewes details here: www.facebook.com/events/219705358210410…

2 facebook.com/events/364663353679232 this number does not include those who have pledged to come but do not use social media

3 Source: www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file…

4 metro.co.uk/2013/11/19/npower-most-comp…

5 www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/npower-mi…

6 www.theguardian.com/society/2011/dec/01…

7 metro.co.uk/2013/10/21/npower-boss-tell…

8 www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysecto…

9 www.theguardian.com/money/2013/nov/03/e…

10 www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfin…

11 www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/92905…

Nov 262013
 

• Up to 1,000 people are expected to take action today outside Npower – the UK’s most complained about energy company – the day Winter Death statistics are released for 2012-2013.

 

• Anti-austerity groups including Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, Disabled People Against Cuts, and the Greater London Pensioners Association are marching on Npower offices with a coffin filled with bills

 

• Further protests are taking place today in Oxford, Lewes, and Bristol Acting together under the banner of ‘Bring down the Big Six – Fuel Poverty Kills!’

 

• Supporting groups include No Dash for Gas, Campaign Against Climate Change, Climate Revolution, Young Friends of the Earth, Frack Off London, Power for the People, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Lewes Against the Cuts, SOAS Energy & Climate Change Society and Southwest Against Nuclear.

 

In London, protesters are meeting at 11.30am at The Royal Exchange by Bank tube station, and hundreds will march to the Npower supply and trading HQ at 60 Threadneedle Street. They are expected to deliver a coffin filled with energy bills and hold a ‘speak-out’ where those hardest hit by fuel poverty will speak of their experiences.

 

The protests mark the release of new figures on last winter’s ‘excess winter deaths’, due for release at 9.30am today. Over 1000 people are expected to take part in the protests in London today. Simultaneously, Oxford-based protesters will be targeting British Gas at their new Oxford HQ . 1 Protests against the Big Six are also taking place in Lewes and Bristol. 2

 

Last year there were 24,000 ‘excess winter deaths’. The World Health Organisation estimate that at least 30 per cent of these were due to cold homes. 3

 

Clare Welton of Fuel Poverty Action said: “People are dying because of the Big Six’s profiteering and the rising cost of dirty energy like oil and gas. We’re protesting because we need to tackle fuel poverty and climate change as a matter of urgency. Both can be challenged through a combination of publicly owned and community controlled renewable energy and mass insulation”.

 

Npower has been chosen as the main London target as it received 202.5 complaints per 100,000 customers between April and June – double that of it’s nearest rival EDF 4 and has hiked its’ prices up higher than any of the other Big Six this year (9.3% electricity and 11.1% for Gas). N-Power have also paid zero corporation tax for the past 3 years despite reporting a 34% profit rise of £413million last winter due to price hikes and an estimated 300,000 people were pushed into fuel poverty as a result. 6

 

Susan Jarrett of UK Uncut said: ‘The fact that people are dying of fuel poverty as Npower and other energy companies rake in the money and avoid tax is a scandal. This Government is not only unnecessarily cutting our services in the name of austerity but are allowing these energy companies to literally get away with murder which is why we are fighting back today.’

 

 

 

1 www.facebook.com/events/1415841395313806 For more info contact organiser Andy Jones, Fuel Poverty Action Oxford – 07549212088

 

Lewes details here: www.facebook.com/events/219705358210410…

 

2 facebook.com/events/364663353679232 this number does not include those who have pledged to come but do not use social media

 

3 Source: www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file…

 

4 metro.co.uk/2013/11/19/npower-most-comp…

 

5 www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/npower-mi…

 

6 www.theguardian.com/society/2011/dec/01…

Nov 252013
 

Independent Living Rights News (25/11/2013)

 

 

IMPORTANT NEWS FROM ITALY:

 

Significant Independent Living Rights Victory In Face Of Harsh Austerity

 

On 21 November, the ‘Comitato 16 Novembre Onlus’, which is led by severely disabled people, finally secured a long-term commitment from the Italian government that more than 300 million Euros will be invested annually in personal assistance support for disabled people living in the community following a campaign of direct action.

 

  • Interview in Italian with Mariangela Lamanna, the Comitato’s Vice President, immediately after their victory:

 

http://tv.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2013/11/21/malati-sla-letta-ripristinati-i-fondi-comitato-16-novembre-e-stata-durissima/254670/#disqus_thread

 

  • Protest held in Rome on 20 November 2013:

 

http://tv.ilfattoquotidiano.it/2013/11/20/sit-in-malati-di-sla-manifestante-si-stacca-il-respiratore-non-mi-importa-di-morire/254489/

 

 

1. Pam Duncan

 

Disability rights and anti-bedroom tax campaigner Pam Duncan, who is also an Independent Living Fund user, continues to campaign for the Labour Party’s nomination for the forthcoming Falkirk by-election. The selection meeting is on 8 December.

 

The Disability News Service has published an interview with Pam at:

 

http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/11/disabled-activist-could-become-first-mp-to-use-independent-living-fund/

 

And you can see videos of Pam speaking at the Scottish Labour Conference in April and talking about her life as a disabled person and personal assistance user at:

 

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=EAonqvZt5oA&feature=c4-feed-u

 

http://www.iriss.org.uk/resources/pam-duncans-story-so-far

 

More info at:

 

http://pamduncan.com

 

 

2. Leading Labour Politician Comments On The Independent Living Fund

 

Leading Labour politician Margaret Beckett MP has pointed to the ‘extra burdens’ the closure of the ILF would place on local authorities.

 

In the Derby Telegraph (15/11/13) she wrote: “Just a year after we all applauded the brilliant sportsmen and women who competed in the Paralympics, many more people with disabilities….will be affected if the Government closes the Independent Living Fund.”

 

“That fund was set up when the Tory Government, under Margaret Thatcher, was cutting benefits for people with the most serious disabilities. The Independent Living Fund was set up in part to compensate for the withdrawal of those other benefits.”

 

“Today, Margaret Thatcher’s successors, working hand-in-hand with the Liberal Democrats, are trying to remove it. The Coalition claims that councils should then fund the services and support the Independent Living Fund used to provide. This would place substantial extra burdens on councils, already facing massive cuts.”

 

 

3. Independent Living Rights Appeal Court Victory

 

Independent Living Fund users who successfully challenged the government’s decision to close the Fund and the Save the ILF Campaign still do not know if Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning will meet with them.

 

Gabriel Pepper, one of the ILF Five involved in the legal challenge who is from Waltham Forest in North London, has previously been helped by Ian Duncan Smith to secure vital health treatment when in 2001 he made representations to the Labour health minister Alan Milburn on Gabriel’s behalf.

 

http://www.yellowad.co.uk/News.cfm?id=39423&headline=GABRIEL%20IS%20DISABLED%20FUNDING%20SAVIOUR

 

Below are links to the full Appeal Court judgement in the ILF Five legal case, and the solicitors Press Release and Briefing Note:

 

http://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/markup.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2013/1345.html&query=bracking&method=boolean

 

http://www.scomo.com/documents/ILF_press_release-final.pdf

 

http://www.scomo.com/documents/ILF_BRIEFING_NOTE-06.11.13.pdf

 

A ‘Legal briefing on the decision in the ILF appeal’ has been produced by Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors who acted for three of the claimants. This contains important legal advice about the Court of Appeal judgement and the legal issues the Department for Work and Pensions and Ministers must now confront.

 

http://www.deightonpierceglynn.co.uk/news/news_docs/536648%20ILF%20appeal%20legal%20briefing%20note%20LW%20Nov%202013.pdf

 

 

4. Facebook

 

As well as following the Facebook group of Disabled People Against Cuts, some disabled people active in the ILF campaign that supported the ILF legal case share information through the “Because We R Worth It!” Independent Living Facebook group.

 

 

5. Interesting Articles

 

  • Sunil Peck’s report in ‘Disability Now’ of the upbeat meeting of 120 disabled activists and allies in London on 19 November that was held to celebrate the launch of Disability History Month. This year’s theme is ‘Celebrating our Struggle for Independent Living: No Return to Institutions or Isolation’:

 

http://www.disabilitynow.org.uk/article/independence-key-disability-history-month

 

  • An article about the ILF Five’s Appeal Court victory by Rachel Salmon for the ‘Women’s Views On News’ site which features an interview with leading activist Sue Elsegood:

 

http://www.womensviewsonnews.org/2013/11/living-not-just-surviving/

 

  • An article by Mark Wilson of ProMove commenting on the calls for Esther McVey to resign:

 

http://www.promove.uk.com/blog/esther-mcvey-resignation-calls-will-do-little-to-help-disabled-people/

 

 

6. All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group (APPDG)

 

The next meeting of the APPDG is on 9 December, and Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning will be attending. In its report ‘Promoting Independence, Preventing Crisis’ that was published jointly with the Local Government All-Party Parliamentary Group in May 2013, the APPDG adopted the following position towards the proposed closure of the Independent Living Fund:

 

“The Government should acknowledge disabled people’s concerns about the closure of the Independent Living Fund and work more closely with them to manage the closure for the 20,000 affected.”

 

The Appeal Court’s decision to quash Esther McVey’s decision to close the Independent Living Fund provides an opportunity for the APPDG to reflect on its position towards the ILF and decide whether or not to call for a long-term future for the Fund.

 

 

7. Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning’s Comments On The ILF

 

Last week, Welsh MP Hywel Williams of Plaid Cymru tabled an ‘oral question’ on 18 November for Mike Penning about the future of the Independent Living Fund. The text below is from Hansard:

 

 

Hansard

 

“Hywel Williams (Arfon) (PC): What plans he has for the future of the independent living fund.

 

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Mike Penning): We will consider the Court of Appeal judgment carefully and will announce plans in due course.

 

Hywel Williams: I declare an interest, in that my brother is enabled to live independently in his own community by the ILF, and I am extremely grateful that that opportunity is afforded to him. Will the Minister assure the House that when the Government come to consider their future plans, there will be full consultation this time with disabled people and disability groups in Wales, the regions of England, and Scotland, and specifically with the Welsh Government?

 

Mike Penning: I greatly respect the hon. Gentleman, but the conclusions of the Court of Appeal were nothing to do with consultation. It was a process issue, in that the Court felt that the Minister had not been given enough information, based on the information that was put in writing. The Court went on to say that there was evidence that the Minister [Esther McVey] ‘consulted personally with many affected groups’ and it had ‘no doubt that evidence of hard cases would have been forcefully drawn to her attention.’ That is what the Court ruled. It had nothing to do with consultation.”

 

 

Comment:

 

Hywel Williams is the brother of an ILF user, therefore any comments he makes as an MP on this issue have the added force of being from an advocate for the interests and needs of his brother and other disabled people. By raising the veracity of the consultation, he is reflecting the disquiet among disability organisations within Wales about the initial consultation process. This disquiet is also shared in both Scotland and Northern Ireland. While the government can argue the Appeal Court ruling means the process followed during the ILF consultation was lawful, ILF users and disabled people’s organisations still have significant concerns about how it was run. Among these is the failure to publish an equality impact assessment before the consultation started, and the inability of disabled people and family carers to bring important issues and the potentially detrimental implications of the ILF’s closure to the surface.

 

In his response, Mike Penning emphasised strongly in his tone that Esther McVey’s decision to close the ILF was based on insufficient written information. This could be a reference to the DWP’s limited written interim analysis of the consultation responses that was completed on the Wednesday following the consultation deadline at midnight on Friday 12 October 2012.

 

Mike Penning’s reference to Esther McVey’s meetings with disability organisations, where it is assumed examples of ‘hard cases’ would have been raised with her in the run-up to her closure decision, is possibly an attempt to argue that at the time of the decision McVey was actually fully aware of the consequences of closure. This could be a response to some of the points made in the Appeal Court ruling and might mean a possible approach by the DWP and government would be to argue all that is needed to get back on course is a review of the ‘documentary evidence’.

 

An alternative reading might be the government is trying to put distance between McVey and the DWP’s consultation analysis to find a way of back-tracking politically. Given that the Appeal Court ruled the consultation process was lawful, this would be difficult to achieve as it would mean acknowledging the DWP’s approach to ILF users and their families during the consultation was wrong.

 Posted by at 20:37
Nov 242013
 

The eight Labour MPs who attended the lobby meeting were perhaps somewhat discomforted by the level of hostility, and indeed rowdiness that occasionally erupted from the floor of Meeting Room 12. It was obvious from the chair, Ian Lavery’s, comments and opening address, that the MPs involved, and their offices had hoped for a reassurance of votes won from grassroots bedroom tax campaigners. The assembled activists, who had come from as far afield as Glasgow and Kent, were not so keen on patting any MP on the back, and the most obvious complaint voiced from the floor was that, despite Labour opposition to the Bedroom Tax policy, Labour held local councils are nonetheless proceeding with evictions against council tenants.

The MPs present, in the order in which they spoke, included the chair of the meeting: Ian Lavery MP for Wansbeck [http://www.ianlavery.co.uk/], Margaret Curran, MP for Glasgow East, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland [http://margaretcurran.org/], Kate Green, MP Stretford and Urmston, Shadow Minister for Disabled People [http://www.kategreen.org/], Emma Reynolds, MP for Wolverhampton, Shadow Housing Minister [http://www.emmareynolds.org.uk/], Jack Dromey, MP for Erdington, Shadow Home Affairs Minister [http://www.jackdromey.org], Rachel Reeves, MP for Leeds West, Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions [http://www.rachelreeves.net], Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham, Shadow minister for Employment [http://www.stephentimms.org.uk/], and Wayne David, MP for Caerphilly [http://www.waynedavid.labour.co.uk/].

The MP heckled the most was, without a doubt, Rachel Reeves, whose comments on welfare as reported in the Observer came under fire. There seemed to be a general consensus among the MPs on why the bedroom tax must be scrapped, most obviously that it’s implementation is actually more expensive than any possible saving, Stephen Timms mentioning the research of Prof. Rebecca Tunstall. [http://www.york.ac.uk/chp/people/tunstall/, Full report here: http://www.york.ac.uk/media/chp/documents/2013/Testing%20DWP%20Assessment%20of%20Impact%20of%20SRS%20Size%20Criterion%20on%20HB%20Costs%20University%20of%20York.pdf], where other MPs such as Mr Lavery and Mr David mentioning the human cost of the policy, and Emma Reynolds and Rachel Reeves mentioning the infrastructural cost of the policy, namely that housing associations facing reduced rental income cannot afford to invest in new housing stock at a time of great housing shortage.

Having found the audience less welcoming than they had perhaps expected, the chair and assembled MPs went to great lengths to point out that the bedroom tax lobby meeting was occurring just before an opposition day devoted entirely to fighting the Bedroom Tax in the commons. Needless to say, the motion to end the Bedroom Tax was defeated 252:226 [http://www.parliament.uk/business/news/2013/november-/mps-debate-abolition-of-the-bedroom-tax/]. The aspect of this timing that the chair, Mr Lavery in particular, was keen to impress on the assembled activists was that this motion was only brought forward because of the vociferous nature of our campaigns against the Bedroom Tax, which are now gaining the attention of such papers as the Guardian [http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/oct/20/protests-grow-over-benefit-cuts]

Shaun O’Regan from Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign, among others, also viewed the related debate in the commons, mentioned above. He noted that the lobby meeting ‘surprised the Labour politicians about how angry we are, not just about the bedroom tax, but all the other cuts’. He added that the ‘shameful Lib Dems and Tories’ who spoke in favour of retaining the Bedroom tax in the Commons debate ‘made us more determined to go aay and build for the Southwark Benefit justice demonstration on the 25th of January 2014.’ Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign have also been instrumental in lobbying Harriet Harman, whose fierce opposition to the Bedroom Tax has recently been reported by the Independent [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/nick-cleggs-promise-of-bedroom-tax-review-is-a-sham-says-harriet-harman-8930911.html]

The Southwark campaign have also obtained the following response from their local council. [link to file]. The following Guardian Article published on the 18th of October illustrates the injustice of Southwark Council, who had issued 5,800 summonses. [http://www.theguardian.com/money/2013/oct/18/thousands-court-council-tax]

Councillor Richard Livingston issued a response (text below), in which he explains both his abhorrence for the ‘particularly brutal’ Bedroom Tax, and explains how he is helping effected households in his Livingston ward, ‘using all the Discretionary Housing Payment money we receive to keep families in their homes by bridging the gap created by the Bedroom Tax, we are also finding extra money from other tenants through the Housing Revenue Account.’

 

A great deal of credit for the occurrence of the meeting on Tuesday 12th must be offered to the grassroots groups who seem to have caught the ear of the Labour shadow cabinet, not least Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign. Here is what some of those activists contributed:

Much of the ire voiced in the meeting was eloquently summed up by Mr Robert Punton of DPAC, who described empty promises as ‘wind in the air’ and whose standing ovation was reported by the Morning Star: [http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-7614-bedroom-tax-provokes-stormy-scenes-in-Parliament#.UoYhXXBK8-c]

‘Robert Punton DPAC activist and advocate of Birmingham Anti Bedroom  was infuriated by the crass disregard in which the panel of Labour MP’s quoted that they where here to listen to the people suffering under this bill, but spent 90% of 2 hour preaching party rhetoric at an increasing angered impassioned audience.

 

Once Mr Punton got the opportunity to speak he told the greatly decreased panel, (because contrary to their promised to listen once they delivered their speeches they flooded out of committee room on mass) until the Labour Party turns it’s words into actions, then all their promises of post 2015 are just hot air on the wind!  They must demand their Labour Council colleague who told Councils to refuse evictions and tear up arrear bills.  Labour MP’s oho are true Socialists must join campaigning groups such as DPAC OCCUPY. UK UNCUT, ANNONYMOUS, UNIONS & PEOPLES ASSEMBLY  on the streets to demand Social justice for all.  The sentiments expressed throughout Mr Punton where echoed and expanded upon from other speakers from floor from all sections of society and communities the length the country.

 

Until Labour wash away “new” Labour ideals and return to the true principles or grandparents generation a free NHS welfare rights not charity and a playing level field which treats all equal, they need to bring the Party back to the people NOT expect the so titled underclass to move to them.  Until they do they will remain unelectable as far the targets of the Coalition are concerned

The actions of the Labour Party over next two weeks months will determine the true credentials and prospects of whether they truly deserve the chance and responsibility to govern us in 2015.  If they honestly support the growing unrest being represented by Grassroot groups such as DPAC, UK UNCUT & OCCUPY they will turn their hot air into action.

Will they prove to us they are part of Solution or just collaborators in the problem which is the Coalition.  Will they cut back or join us fighting back!

They need to realise that the peoplesunrest escalating and desperately cornered people will vote for change not in the ballot box but in the street and on the road.

The people are doing community advocacy through DIRECT ACTION!’

The fact that the motion to end the hated bedroom tax was defeated in the commons is a disheartening blow to all of us, but on the other hand, the fact that it took place at all means that the opposition are listening to at least some of our cries. Moreover, the media coverage of the day gives us some small consolation that our voices will be heard.

 

It is difficult to know even whether Mr Lavery’s response to one question, that he desired an end to the Work Capability Assessment, and not just the replacement of ATOS, was something which actually reflects the thinking of his entire party. One thing is certain, they want our votes, and the energy and enthusiasm of our grassroots campaigning to back them in 2015. Whether the Labour party deserves our support perhaps remains to be seen.

Postscript: Media Coverage

Here’s Alan Wylie’s blog about the day: http://diaryofaloonyleftie.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/bedroom-tax-meeting-in-parliament.html

Also present was Ros Wynne Jones, who live tweeted throughout the event

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ros-wynne-jones-bedroom-tax-2785516

Coverage of the commons debate

–          http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/live-bedroom-tax-protest-debate-2783462

–          http://www.channel4.com/news/bedroom-tax-labour-lib-dems-vote-commons

–          http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-7614-bedroom-tax-provokes-stormy-scenes-in-Parliament#.UoYhXXBK8-c

–          http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/nov/12/ed-daveys-speech-to-energy-firms-telling-them-not-to-be-greedy-politics-live-blog

–          http://www.itv.com/news/2013-11-12/iain-duncan-smith-to-miss-bedroom-tax-debate-in-commons/ (describes us as “a number of protesters!)

Letter to Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign from Councillor Richard Livingstone

I am sorry I cannot be with you today. As you know the fight for benefit justice has many fronts and so this morning I am at a meeting alongside the Citizens Advice Bureau and other voluntary organisations in Southwark to lobby Job Centre Plus about the explosion in the number of benefit claimants who have had the totality of their benefits removed through sanctions, in what often appears to be an arbitrary way.

The Bedroom Tax is a particularly brutal piece of legislation that fails to understand the realities of, and pressures on, social housing.  As a local Councillor I have had to deal time and time again with cases of families with disabled members whose needs are ignored in how the Bedroom Tax is applied, with separated families where the access rights of the children to one of the parents have been compromised as the room that they stay at the weekend has been declared surplus by the DWP. Or the cases where Southwark Council has decided that a family needs three bedrooms, that family is suddenly being hit by the Bedroom Tax as a result of the DWP applying a new set of harsher criteria.

Government talk about the Bedroom Tax being in incentive for families to downsize their homes to the minimum that they need. But where are these homes going to come from? Like the rest of London, we have acute housing problems in Southwark. The waiting list for a council home in Southwark has 20,000 families on it. We estimate it would take ten years to move every family affected by the Bedroom Tax to a new home that government deems to be the right size. And all this, of course, is before you consider the physical and emotional upheaval of having to leave the family home for something smaller.

We are trying to help families caught up in this as much as legally possible. In particular, we are not only using al the Discretionary Housing Payment money we receive to keep families in their homes by bridging the gap created by the Bedroom Tax, we are also finding extra money from other tenants through the Housing Revenue Account. Once again, the government is making sure that it is the poor that have to pay for the poorest.

 

The Bedroom Tax is an obscenity. I welcome the commitment of Rachel Reeves an our next Labour government to repeal it and wish you all well in the Lobby today.

 

Councillor Richard Livingstone

Cabinet member for Finance, Resources and Community Safety

Labour councillor for Livesey Ward

Nov 212013
 

Reflections on Doing Disability Research: An audience with Colin Barnes: Wednesday 4th December

At the University of Leeds: 5-7pm Western Lecture Theatre (no. 18 on the campus map) with a drinks reception from 4-5pm in the Liberty Building atrium (no. 16 on the campus map). http://www.leeds.ac.uk/site/custom_scripts/campus_map.php

As you are probably aware, Colin Barnes, founder of the Centre for Disability Studies, is due to retire at the end of this year. This presentation will provide an insight into the circumstances and influences that led to his involvement with the Disabled People’s Movement, the development of Disability Studies here at Leeds and his thoughts regarding its future.

This is a free event and everyone is welcome, but please can you let us know if you intend to come just so we have an idea of numbers. Please email M.Wilkinson@Leeds.ac.uk

This extra-special CDS event promises to be a highlight of our programme for UK Disability History Month!

See event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1429375020611446/

CB

Nov 182013
 
Answer: Eh, not a lot really.
 
On the 4th of September this year disabled people from all over the country descended on Government departments as part of DPAC’s week of action, ‘Reclaiming Our Futures’. The focus of the week of action, the UK disabled peoples Manifesto (also co-incidentally called Reclaiming Our Futures) was handed in at each department along with a request for meeting Ministers to discuss implementing the demands in the Manifesto.
 
Cue prolonged silence.
 
Except from one corner. A minion from the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) agreed to setup a meeting between activists and Department reps. And last week, that meeting happened.
 
Now, its important to keep expectations low going into these kind of exercises. Rarely have we heard of campaigners meeting with policy makers and coming out afterwards declaring; ‘Ok – job done. They’ve agreed with everything (or indeed anything) and are going to rewrite policy to incorporate all our asks. Well done folks. Pub?’
 
So preparing to be under-whelmed is par for the course. We weren’t disappointed.
 
Energy prices, the cost of living, fuel poverty and disabled peoples incomes are all topics which have been on the media agenda recently. These issues are so closely linked you could, in football speak, ‘throw a blanket over them’. And this department has (amongst other things) responsibility for overseeing how all of these issues are connected, and driving policy to deal with them.
 
Except this department is completely cold when its comes to finding ways to do this. (And don’t worry, I’ll run out of energy based puns soon). You see, despite the rapidly growing amount of research, or evidence as we like to call it, around the massive impact of fuel poverty on disabled people – this department really doesn’t know its arse from its elbow.
 
Presented with the departments latest scribbling around fuel poverty, The Fuel Poverty Strategy, there were a few obvious asks. ‘How much input did disabled people have into this?’ ‘Which groups of disabled people?’ ‘What evidence of the impact on disabled people informed this?’
 
(DECC) – ‘Eh, none.’
 
(DPAC/FPA) – ‘Sorry, which question is that the answer to?’
 
(DECC) – ‘Eh, all of them.’
 
If it wasn’t so serious, you might have thought you’d stumbled into a read through for the BBC’s political satire ‘The Thick of It’. But it is serious. You see when your income and services have been stripped to the bone, when support is either at the most basic level or non existent (and due for further swinging cuts over the next 2-5 years), and you’re isolated and forgotten in your own home – then being able to adequately heat your home, feed your self and keep clean are hugely important in keeping body and spirit intact. So if you are the department charged with responsibility for addressing this , you might have expected to have a good handle on what was actually happening.
 
So, why don’t they know?
 
Is this an issue where the research isn’t being done?
 
Type the words ‘Disabled people’ and ‘Fuel Poverty’ into a well known search engine, and you will find endless research, reports and information. One BBC report 1 from 2008, yes 5 years ago, shows how up to 3 million disabled people potentially trapped in fuel poverty.
 
The University of Leicester produced a report 2 for the EAGA Charitable Trust in June – this year – which stated:
 
‘Official figures show that households with someone with a disability or a
long-term illness are at heightened risk of fuel poverty. The research
evidence demonstrates that many disabled people face difficulties in
affording adequate energy consumption to meet their needs, including
having to cut down on heating because of money worries. The negative
health impacts of fuel poverty are particularly likely to affect disabled
people and those living with long term conditions, among others.’
 
The report goes on to say, with reference to disabled children:
 
‘Research evidence also shows that disabled children and young people are
at high risk of poverty and disadvantage. It is also important to note that
the number of children experiencing disability is rising. Families with one or
more disabled children are likely to experience extra costs compared to
those with no disabled children, and face difficulties in affording fuel and
other essential costs.’
 
The University of York’s Department of Social Policy and Social Work and the Centre for Housing Policy has led the way 3 with extensive research into this area. Including criticising the way fuel poverty is defined. It recommends, amongst other things, that support funding such as DLA (Disability Living Allowance) shouldn’t be counted as income, as is the current practice. This funding is allocated to meet the extra costs brought about by the barriers in society, and isn’t ‘income’. (As an aside, reports are growing that receiving DLA is now also being used as a reason to refuse those affected by the Bedroom Tax & Council Tax Benefit changes access to the Discretionary Housing Payments – a disgrace).
 
So, there is mounting evidence available, using the most basic keywords, at our fingertips.
 
Are disabled people hard to find?
 
Hmmm. Try typing ‘Disabled Peoples Organisation’ into that same search engine. Then prepare yourself for a long read. Thousands of organisations appear, from some User Led set-ups, to the huge corporate charities ‘representing’ disabled people. Thousands.
 
There aren’t thousands of energy providers, you can count them on your fingers and toes. You would have a much smaller group to work from to find someone to speak for these companies. Unless you worked in DECC. The recent Greenpeace 4 FOI shows how the furthest civil servants have to go to find an energy firm rep is across the office floor. You can’t open a drawer in DECC without some ‘policy advisor’ on secondment from one of the Big 6 popping out of it.
 
Despite energy firm employees – and energy firms – being much thinner on the ground than disabled people and their organisations, DECC seems to work very hard and finding and connecting with one group, and working very hard at not finding and not connecting with another.
 
So we have the evidence that something is clearly wrong. We have access to the group of people affected, who understand the issues, and can contribute political and practical solutions as to how to correct what is clearly wrong, as disabled people have contributed enormously in this way for decades. See ‘The Social Model of Disability’ and the ‘Independent Living Movement’ for some fine examples of this contribution.
 
The missing piece? Political will.
 
Yes, there is will enough to pay lip-service to tackling the Big 6’s stranglehold on energy provision. Lip-service about price freezes, easy-switch process’s, simpler tariffs & bills, windfall taxes; it goes on and on. Its all rubbish.
 
I rang DECC recently and asked to speak to a ‘policy advisor’ from a green NGO, climate campaign or similar. The phone op was perplexed. No idea what I was talking about. But one from the legalised cartel? – no problem. There are even 2 there from Irelands state owned provider, ESB.
 
As long as these companies have their feet under the desks in Whitehall, writing Energy policy, nothing will change. Policy will continue to serve their interests, not ours. They don’t benefit from Energy policy – they design it. If it doesn’t suit their interests, it doesn’t go in. and their interest is only in obscene profit.
 
And there my friends is the crux of the problem. Its not just disabled people who’ve been shafted by privitisation of energy & utilities. Its not just pensioners, the working poor etc. this isn’t a competition or a race to the bottom.
 
We have ALL been shafted since first Gas (in 1986) and then Electric (in 1989) was given away. Without a mandate.
 
Which is why we should ALL join DPAC, U.K Uncut, Fuel Poverty Action and the Greater London Pensioners Association in central London on 26th November for ‘Bring Down the Big 6’, striking back at the heart of these corporate monsters.
 
Its time to demand a re-nationalised, clean & sustainable, democratically controlled energy sector, out of the hands of profiteers. One that doesn’t screw us daily, and do for those who cant afford to be screwed.
 
Whose re-nationalised, clean & sustainable, democratically controlled energy sector?
 
Our re-nationalised …..
 
See you in the streets.
 
Paddy Murphy
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Nov 172013
 

1. Government’s plans for the future of the Independent Living Fund

On Monday 18 November, Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams will ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Ian Duncan Smith:

‘What plans he has for the future of the Independent Living Fund.’

It is unclear what the Government’s response will be, but the question will be asked at 2.30pm.

It will be live on the BBC’s Parliament channel.

2. Sad News From Norway

 We regret to report the sad news of the death of Bente Skansgard, the former President of the European Network on Independent Living and founder of ULOBA, a self-organised personal assistance cooperative with about 1000 disabled members throughout Norway. The following links to articles on the European Network on Independent Living web site provide more information about Bente’s life and work:

http://www.enil.eu/news/in-remembrance-bente-skansgard/

http://www.enil.eu/news/hall-of-fame-bente-skansgard/

The link below is to the pages on ULOBA’s web site in English which give background material on this significant organisation which so few disabled people know anything about in Britain:

http://www.uloba.no/english/Sider/About-Uloba.aspx

3. Scotland

Disability rights and anti-bedroom tax campaigner Pam Duncan has announced she is seeking nomination as Labour candidate for the forthcoming by-election in Falkirk.

More information from: http://pamduncan.com

Anyone wishing to express support for Pam can do so on Facebook at ‘Pam Duncan for Falkirk’.

4. News from the Independent Living Fund

Following the Court of Appeal’s quashing of Esther McVey’s decision last year to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF), the DWP has stopped all processes within the ILF associated with preparing the Fund for closure. This is consistent with the Government’s assertion during the legal challenge to the ILF’s closure that no irreversible decisions or actions would be taken until 2014.

The ILF has suspended the Transfer Review Programme (TRP) that began in April 2013. It has instructed local authorities to destroy all information gathered so far during reviews that have taken place of ‘Group 1’ users that they did not have contact with previously. Consent for the data shared was specific to the TRP, therefore local authorities no longer have permission to keep it.

An ILF user is in Group 1 if they first received funding from the Independent Living Fund before 1 April 1993. While many have since 1993 approached their local authority for additional support on top of their ILF funding, there are hundreds of ILF users who have never had contact with their local social services. Any files on Group 1 users, who only have contact with ILF, that have already been handed to Local Authorities must now be destroyed.

The ILF is writing to all Group 1 users this affects. The ILF will also be writing to all its users to explain what will happen next. If there are any significant developments, the ILF has a ‘News’ section on its web pages through which it issues any statements or information. This can be found at:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/ilf/news/

5. DWP’s response to the Court of Appeal judgement

On 6 November, the Department for Work and Pensions issued a short statement through the ILF News page about the Appeal Court judgement which included the assertion:

“The judgement upheld the Departments position on the consultation exercise itself, accepting that it had been carried out properly and fairly. They found that more documentary evidence was required to demonstrate that the Minister for Disabled People had considered all parts of the public sector equality duty fully.”

This is not an entirely accurate representation of what the Appeal Court said.

Information about the judgement can be found on the web site of solicitors Scott-Moncrieff Associates at:

http://www.scomo.com/061113.html

6. ‘Victory For Independent Living Rights In English Appeal Court’ Statement

The statement issued by three ILF users involved in the ILF legal challenge can be found on Disabled People Against Cuts web site at:

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/victory-for-independent-living-rights-in-english-appeal-court/

It has also been published on the web sites of: Inclusion London, Disability Action In Islington, the European Network on Independent Living, We Are Spartacus, Disability Wales, The Hardest Hit Campaign, Disability Wales, Independent Living In Scotland, Learning Disability Alliance Scotland and the Sisters of Frida. The statement has also been published by a number of blogs including False Economy, and the Scottish Campaign For A Fair Society and National Shop Stewards Network.

7. Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s Trailblazers network ILF statement

Tanvi Vyas, Trailblazers Project Manager following the judgement said:

“We are delighted that the Government are not appealing this decision and will be reviewing it’s future based on further advice. However we would urge the Government to secure the future of the ILF as it is a lifeline for many disabled people who lead active independent lives. Many other disabled people could benefit from this, and the fact that future applications have closed is to the detriment of many disabled people who want to lead fulfilling independent lives.”

8. Responses to the Appeal Court judgement

    Disabled People Against Cuts

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/appeal-court-quash-decision-to-close-indepdent-living-fund/

    Inclusion London

http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/Independent-Living-victory-for-disabled-people

    Equality and Human Rights Commission

http://www.equalityhumanrights.com/news/2013/november/commission-welcomes-court-of-appeal-decision-overturning-the-abolition-of-the-independent-living-fun/

    Disability Rights UK

http://disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2013/november/our-response-ilf-court-appeal-victory

    Public and Commercial Services Union

http://www.pcs.org.uk/download.cfm?docid=F6BA54F8-8445-41F1-A44D6FDB0FCABAE0

9. Articles responding to the Appeal Court judgement

    Tourette’s Hero arguing for ‘The Right To An Active Life’ and what it means not to have the option of applying to the Independent Living Fund:

http://www.touretteshero.com/2013/11/06/the-right-to-an-active-life/#comment-615

    A very positive and supportive article by Ros Wynne-Jones in the Mirror which includes a video of ILF users outside the Royal Courts of Justice:

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ros-wynne-jones-disability-fund-court-2684500

    Disability Now article featuring support for the Appeal Court victory from John Evans, one of the founders of the independent living rights movement in Britain, who said:

“I was surprised by the judgement because I was expecting the worst. We’ve had such a drastic and terrible five or six years. I’d painted a really black picture so this has made it even better for me. I’ve got nothing but admiration for those five people who put their lives and bodies on the line, who took the government to court, damaged them and won.”

http://www.disabilitynow.org.uk/article/independent-living-fund-campaigners-celebrate-successful-legal-challenge

    An interesting article from Simon Stevens satirical blog in the Huffington Post which uses the devices of ‘incoherence’ and ‘drivel’ to shed new light on disability matters:

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/simon-stevens/independent-living-fund_b_4231378.html

    Comment from Stephen Naysmith in the The Herald:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/comment/columnists/inside-track-court-victory-brings-little-certainty-for-disabled-people.22673410

    Kate Belgrave article and video on False Economy:

http://falseeconomy.org.uk/blog/great-result-disabled-people-celebrate-victory-over-government-to-save-the

    BBC TV report and article by Clive Coleman about the Appeal Court victory

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24834558

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2IxmiYhPG0&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DQ2IxmiYhPG0

    An agnostic article by Rich Watts on his Arbitrary Consent blog which manages to combine welcoming the Appeal Court victory with the defence of Melanie Henwood and Bob Hudson’s appalling ‘independent review’ of the Independent Living Fund in 2006 which recommended it should close given the planned introduction of personal budgets, a key component of the ‘personalisation’ policy. Watts blog will no doubt have been welcomed by his employer, the quietly influential National Development Team for Inclusion, because if the rationale and methodology of the Henwood/Hudson report is ever scrutinised and discredited, it would throw the door open to a re-examination of ‘personalisation’ and its consequences, and the role of those who have developed and championed it:

http://arbitraryc.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/should-the-ilf-close-yes-but/

and here is DPACs scrutiny of the Henwood and Hudson report including a critique of the appalling methodology and time-scale of it.

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/why-the-henwood-and-hudson-report-failed-in-justifying-the-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund/

with thanks and acknowledgement to Independent Living Rights News

Nov 162013
 

Wednesday 20th November 3-5pm

Beech Grove House Seminar Room, University of Leeds

 

Launch event for UK Disability History Month at the University of Leeds, featuring disabled activist Anne Rae (founder member of the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation, former chair of the British Council of Disabled People, and present chair of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People) speaking about the history and significance of the UK disabled people’s movement (title tbc).

 Hosted by Leeds University Union’s Disability Action Group and Leeds Centre for Disability Studies

 All welcome!

see Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/events/544727545614801/

 


ar2 pic

Nov 162013
 

MAD PRIDE
Billy Blake’s Birthday Bash

THURSDAY 28th NOVEMBER
8 until 11pm
Admission FREE

The Ivy House
40 Stuart Road
Nunhead, London SE15 3BE

The Ivy House has bus stops for 484 and 343 nearby.
Nearest Stations are Nunhead and Brockley which is well-served by trains from Highbury and Islington, Dalston Junction and London Bridge.


MP Blake_Web_regular

Nov 152013
 

Don’t forget to come to the action on November 26th to protest against Fuel Poverty. meet 11.30 am at Liverpool Street station. Also here are Fuel Poverty Action’s tips to help you keep as warm as possible this winter.

Fuel Poverty Top Tips

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.

 

 

 Posted by at 18:06
Nov 152013
 

Join Fuel Poverty Action, UK Uncut, the Greater London Pensioners’ Association and Disabled People Against Cuts for an outrageous, creative and inclusive protest against fuel poverty deaths on November 26th at 11.30am in Central London. Meeting point – well it’s a secret, for now.

On November 26th, the number of people who died last winter from cold homes will be announced. But we won’t stand for any more unnecessary deaths caused by price-hiking, polluting, profiteering, tax avoiding energy companies. So …join us as we take to the streets in central London to target one of the main energy robbers driving fuel poverty.

As the Big Six energy companies hike up prices we are told the only answer is to put on a jumper, leaving millions of us to choose between heating and eating. While the energy companies spread the lie that ‘green taxes’ are to blame, we know that the real problem is the privatisation of our energy for profit and the skyrocketing cost of dirty fossil fuels.

So bring your kids, neighbours, grandparents, your warmest jumper and your latest energy bill — and come join the fightback for the alternatives: warm, insulated homes and clean, affordable energy. It’s time to bring down the Big Six and put power back in people’s hands.

Meet outside Royal Exchange by Bank Station for short march to destination target.

See you on the streets.
#justicenotjumper

fuel poverty pic

Nov 132013
 

Dr Paul Litchfield, who has been asked by DWP to carry out the 4th Independent Review of the WCA is not as independent as he seems.

He was part of the Mental Health Technical Working Group commissioned by DWP in 2006, with, among others, Sue Godby from the College of Occupational Therapists and Unum Provident, and Dr Angela Graham from Atos Origin, to develop ‘proposals from transforming the Personal Capability Assessment (the forerunner to the WCA), from an incapacity-based tool for determining entitlment to Incapacity Benefit to a more positive assessment incorporating assessment of capability and of health related interventions which would contribute to overcoming health-related barriers preventing people with disabilities  from engaging with work’.  

With new emphasis on what disabled people were able to do rather than on their limitations or on the social barriers they may encounter, the new test was what effectively became the WCA, adopting the biopsychosocial model promoted by Unum.

 

The new descriptors are a mirror image of the old ones, which recognised that some actitives could not be performed at all by a disabled person, while the new ones only recognise different levels of ‘difficulties’  for the same activity.

But this new version of PCA also makes a clear break from the old one as its intention is not only to explore disabled people’s residual functional ability but also ‘their approach and attitude to returning to work’ which is one of the main feature of the biopsychosocial model, which sees disability or sickness as a  ’state of mind’.

 

Ultimately there is a very clear conflict of interest:  Dr Paul Litchfield will have to assess the effectiveness of the WCA, in particular ‘the way that mental health conditions are considered in the WCA’ and to consider the ‘biopsychosocial factors that influence capability for work’ as part of his review.

As part of the evidence one can speculate that he will certainly also receive, like Dr Harrington, strong calls for the WCA to be scrapped.

 

And as Dr Harrington did, he will certainly respond that the Independent Reviewer has not seen or heard any compelling arguments or evidence that the whole system should be scrapped.

 

How could he not say that about the WCA? After all, he designed it.

 

See the following document which now only seems to exist on the website WhyWaitforEver or as a hardcopy in the Parliament Deposited Papers: Transformation of the Personal Capability Assessment

 

 

 

Nov 122013
 

Add your voice to DPAC’s survey–what needs to change? What are the key issues for disabled people under this Government? We know most of them-but what about specific barriers: education, transport, building more accessible housing-are they getting worse or better?…Tell us…so it’s not just us arguing for change…

 https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WYZVQXV

Nov 112013
 

Are you a Disability Living Allowance (DLA) user that has been forced into a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) assessment? We are looking for stories of those that have been forced into a PIP assessment through a third party. For example, if you have had an ESA assessment, failed and then details have been passed on to the Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) and  triggered a PIP assessment.  Also if you think you have been reported to any agency for a change of circumstances and this has forced a PIP assessment.

This does not apply if you have reported a change of circumstances, but in any other case where you have been told that you must be assessed for PIP due to a change in your circumstances.

Please send any stories to mail@dpac.uk.net  

All details will remain confidential.

Nov 112013
 

A fabulous night of comedy, commotion, composition and cash on the 16th of November 8pm till late at Tottenham Chances 399 High Road N17 6QN It is £7 on the door or £5 with a flyer and all the money goes to a brilliant cause Unspoken!

Unspoken brings together the world of performing arts and the world of not speaking uniting them with creative communication. Unspoken aims to raise awareness of means of communication other than speech this is called augmentative and alternative communication by people in the know by using performance.

2014 is looking busy for Unspoken and we have so much we want to achieve in the next 2 years including a professional production of one young persons coming of age story with a unique (electric) voice, running inclusive drama performance workshop in the community to raise awareness of augmentative and alternative communication. However, to see our dream come true we need significant funds to do the work we want to do so we are holding variety nights to raise funds and awareness.

The first one is the 16th November and we have for your delight and delectation • Rosie Vachat – a musician who uses a communication aid • Justin Mason – a fantastic comical actor • Sam Sillars – a young campaigner and student using AAC • Tina Linsey – beautiful singing voice • Actability – a theatre company • Cazz Regan comedienne and song writer • Dectalk Diva  • Lucia Bellini

All we need now is a brilliant audience and it could be you!

Nov 092013
 
We need as many people as possible to write/ email to Mike Penning ideally over the next week to say why ILF is so important to help maintain disabled people’s independent living opportunities and to say that at the very least any devolved funding (which is only in place for 12 months anyhow) should be ring-fenced to the person.

new Minister for disabled people Mike Penning said on being appointed
“It’s great to be back working with Iain Duncan Smith at this crucial time delivering important welfare reforms. Disabled people aspire to the same opportunities as everyone else, and I want to continue Esther’s work to support disabled people to live fulfilling lives.

Making this a senior ministerial post shows the government’s commitment to disabled people and ensuring everyone can get on in life.”

His email addresses, to let him know how the ILF means disabled people are more likely to access the ‘same opportunities as everyone else’ are ministers@dwp.gsi.gov.ukandmike@penning4hemel.com. Might be good to send comments to both.

Please forward to other people who use ILF and relevant contacts so we can fill his mailboxes.

best

DPAC team

 

Nov 092013
 

•             The   Condem Government claimed that the Henwood and Hudson Review of the Independent   Living Fund (ILF) 2007 found it unsustainable and supports their proposals   for its functions to be assumed by Local Authorities.

•             Analysis   of the Review reveals a number of limitations which renders it an inadequate   basis on which to build government policy on the scale that closing the ILF   entails.

•             The   value-base for the Review is founded in an understanding of a shared   commitment to independent living that cannot be assumed in our current   political climate.

•             The   Review compares an evidence-based assessment of the inadequacies of the ILF   against the theorisation of cutting edge personalisation without   acknowledging the barriers to realistic implementation of the latter.

•             The   main arguments used in the Review to point to inadequacies in the ILF could   equally and in fact more strongly be applied to the idea of Local Authorities   assuming its functions. These are inequity, lack of transparency,   inaccessibility and self-determination. In this way the Review fails to support   current government proposals for the future of the ILF.

•             Rather   than finding the ILF unsustainable, the Review made a number of   recommendations which would have required substantial extra funding in order   to be implemented.

•             The   gap in support provision for disabled people to live in the community with   the closure of the ILF contravenes Article 19 of the UN Convention on the   Rights of Persons with Disabilities and evidence from different local   authority areas is already showing the impact of this.

Introduction

As campaigners question the government over plans to on the Independent Living Fund, we are being told the findings of the Henwood and Hudson Review in 2007 justify the proposals. In a response to one of his constituents Michael Ellis MP referred to “the independent review carried out under Labour” as not “outdated” and as supporting the opinion of the former Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller that the Fund is unsustainable[1]. Henwood and Hudson have themselves written that whereas the previous government failed to act on their report, “the coalition government should be congratulated for these first steps towards a principled and strategic decision about the future of the fund”[2]. There are a number of problems with using the Review as a basis for the decision to close the Fund: the review itself was flawed which leaves its findings open to challenge, the social care context within which the Review was written is certainly now outdated and renders the conclusions of the Review irrelevant to the current state of support provision for disabled people, and finally, the Review never made the recommendations some members of government claimed it did.

 

Limitations of the Consultation Process

The Henwood and Hudson Review is being used to justify changes that risk pushing back the rights of disabled people decades. For measures with such a potentially large impact the consultation process on which the Review was based was not nearly vigorous enough. The authors were given 6 months to complete the report. The consultation methodology included a formal call for evidence, 6 consultation meetings at different locations around the country, and an analysis of written submissions. The meetings were attended by 120 ILF users and their families and a total of 385 written submissions were received, of which 212 were from ILF service users and their families. Although it is likely there was some overlap between the individuals who attended the meetings and those who sent in written submissions, even if we assume there was input into the consultation from a total of 332 ILF recipients and their families, this still only represents just 0.28% of the 18,761 total number of people receiving ILF when the report was written. Disabled people at the time questioned the accessibility of the process, reliant as it was on an individual’s ability to either submit written evidence or to attend in person at a meeting at a set location on a set day. A lack of more accessible engagement methods restricted the inclusion of disabled people within the consultation process.

The involvement of other stakeholders in the consultation process was also limited. ILF staff have reported they barely even knew the Henwood and Hudson Review was being carried out, let alone were included in giving their views to it and the reviewers, presumably on orders from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), also refused to meet with Trustees. Moreover disabled people ineligible for ILF were not interviewed, thus failing to consider a wide range of views and experiences sufficient to consider the ILF within the wider context of independent living for disabled people. Local Authorities were invited to comment on their experiences with the ILF but not on the idea of its functions being transferred to them. A number complained about social workers having to provide support to disabled people in accessing the ILF. Such views do not suggest a willingness to take over from the ILF.

The closure of the Independent Living Fund has wide implications encompassing all support provision for disabled people and our very position in society, however the rigours of the consultation process were more suited for an internal review than for something of this magnitude. Consultation questions focused on the following questions:

–          Whether the ILF is the best way of providing support.

–          If not, whether a different model is required.

–          What – if any – changes might be needed to improve the way the ILF operates[3].

The inadequacies of the ILF are analysed in detail and then compared against the theoretical advantages of other cash for care systems without an evidence-base for how these other systems work in practice. At the time of the Review Individual Budget pilots were only just underway but Direct Payments had been around for many years and yet the Report fails to provide any analysis of the success or otherwise of Direct Payments implementation by Local Authorities. Such an analysis would have warned against an increase in the role of Local Authorities in provision of social care support for disabled people.

 Henwood and Hudson are open that their Review was founded in a value base which promotes self-determination for disabled people. Few people would argue against the principles of choice and control. However the balance of evidence and value base is not equally distributed through the Report: criticisms of the ILF are made on an evidence-basis yet the advantages of other cash for care systems are given from a theoretical value base alone. The Review therefore provides insufficient grounds on which to base a recommendation for integration with those other systems.

 The Review is based on the assumption of a commitment to independent living for disabled people which reflects the optimism of the time when the report was written but which under this current political climate is now outdated. Despite feedback from ILF users and their families about the many positive aspects of the ILF these are insufficiently highlighted within the body of the Report, the Review being focused on improvements to the ILF rather than on defending the need for independent living support itself. Evidence collected from ILF recipients included in Appendix 2 of the report gives testimony to the significant impact that the ILF has had on the lives of individual disabled people and supports the continuing need for the ILF despite developments in other areas of social care. One person is quoted as saying “Before ILF I was treated like a child; now I am treated like an adult”[4].

 The recommendations of the review are focused on driving forward change as part of the personalisation agenda. Although the importance of the ILF can be gauged through what is recorded in the Report of the views of ILF recipients themselves, the actual findings of the report fail to give sufficient recognition to the successes of the ILF. For example, criticisms are made of a lack of flexibility and recommendations made for lighter touch monitoring but by comparison to many local authorities, ILF has been way ahead in these respects. Another serious omission is the importance of the ILF in leveraging support from Adult Social Care. The ILF has attempted to drive up standards from local authorities by expecting minimum input in cash terms and setting standards (for example by insisting on one to one support in supported living) before becoming involved in funding a package of support[5]. Perspectives such as this would be unlikely to come from Local Authorities or be known to individual ILF recipients and absence from the Review can be attributed to a failure to consult with ILF staff.

 Taken on their own, the findings of the review present a picture of an anachronistic and irrelevant institution, a picture which is at odds with the needs and experiences of disabled people themselves when put in the wider context of independent living support.

 To date there has been no consultation on alternatives to the ILF, an issue perceived by campaigners as a classic example of siloed government policy and evidence of the Minister for Disabled People being first and foremost a DWP Minister rather than cross-government The Henwood and Hudson consultation asked whether a different model was required but did not consult in detail on proposed alternatives and stakeholders including disabled people and their families, as well as Local Authorities who are being proposed to take over administration of the ILF monies are still waiting for this opportunity. Consultation on alternatives may have been beyond the remit of the reviewers but not beyond the remit of the DWP. Former minister for Disabled People, Maria Miller said that there would be a full UK wide public consultation to take place alongside publication of the government white paper on the future of the care and support system in England. Disabled people were concerned that with such a large brief as the reform of the whole care and support system, that the ILF will only be considered as a side issue within the wider consultation and will miss out on the level of attention the question of its future deserves. Meanwhile ILF Trustees took the opportunity of commenting on the Green Paper ‘Caring for our Future’ to express their conviction that a national body is needed to take over from the ILF and that integration through Local Authority budgets would be unwise.

 Based on an outdated vision of social care

The Review was carried out at a time of progress within the development of personal budgets and the authors’ analysis is based upon an assumption of continued development that has proved incorrect. In their conclusions Henwood and Hudson cite the necessity of “second guessing emergent policy change”[6].  Unfortunately they second-guessed wrong. Our present government uses austerity as an excuse but analysis of current disability policy and its beginnings within the neo-liberal approaches of New Labour reveal an ideological basis for removing rather than improving support for disabled people. Developments in personalised support for disabled people have not only stalled, they are purposefully being taken backwards. The Report mentions more modern ‘cash for care’ systems such as In Control and individual budget pilots[7].  In 2006 there was an optimism that such systems represented the future for social care. However in 2012 we see areas of the country still without a Resource Allocation System or equivalent and no plans to ever have one, we see local authorities introducing caps to personal budgets with residential care being promoted as an option for anyone with higher support needs[8] and we see ever tightening eligibility criteria coupled with increased care charges. The authors of the Report openly acknowledged that their analysis was “explicitly value-based as well as evidence-based”[9] but unfortunately by assuming a context of shared values, it is not able to offer the defence of those values that we need at this present time.

 If we look at the reasons given by Henwood and Hudson as evidence of the need to reform the ILF, those same reasons taken within the present climate would in fact argue against closure of the Fund to be replaced with integration into Local Authority social care systems. They cite inequity, transparency, accessibility, self-determination and flexibility as areas necessitating change. Maria Miller asserted that Local Authority social care systems would present an alternative:

“The outcomes that [the ILF] supported can now be delivered within the Local Authority managed care and support system through personal budgets and direct payments[10].”

Evidence from the practical application of personal budgets and direct payments systems and disabled people’s experience of these provide a strong basis for arguing that not only will Miller’s proposed alternative fail to address the areas identified by the Review as needing improvement but it will make them worse.

 

 Inequity

The Review points to a lack of access to ILF for certain groups of disabled people as evidence of inequity. The authors write “We conclude that the ILF is characterised by an unacceptably high level of inequity that must be addressed as a matter of the utmost urgency.[11]” Examples of inequity cited are the restriction of the Fund to a range of disabled people including anyone applying aged 66 or over, people with terminal illness with less than six months to live, disabled parents, disabled people from Black and Ethnic Minority Communities and those with the highest support needs (by imposing a weekly limit on how much support can be funded).  The Review criticises the need for ILF applicants to be in receipt of Higher Rate Disability Living Allowance pointing to how this is discriminatory against certain groups of disabled people including those with mental health support needs, people with learning disabilities, people with Asperger’s Syndrome and people who are blind or partially sighted. Henwood and Hudson recommend “that the DWP should…  explore the simplification of ILF eligibility in order to remove the multiple layers of qualification that are required.[12]”  Instead, following the Review and shortly before the Fund was shut to new applicants it was further restricted introducing new eligibility criteria for applicants to be in employment for 16 or more hours per week and raising the Local Authority contribution to £340 per week, sparking anger and outrage and calls for the ILF “to be scrapped”[13].

The imposition of multiple layers of eligibility reflects the success rather than a failing of the ILF. The failing is the government’s unwillingness to invest in independent living support the amount needed to provide equal life chances for all disabled people, despite the economic case for independent living having been well established[14].  By 1992, over 22,000 people were receiving an ILF grant and the original £5million budget had reached £97 million. Morris writes that “instead of welcoming the success of the policy, the government’s response to the larger numbers of people successfully claiming than expected, was to attempt to reduce the numbers of people qualifying.[15]”, a situation similar to the monetary driver we are currently seeing behind the reform of Disability Living Allowance. A recurrent theme described by Henwood and Hudson is a perception of the ILF as ‘secret money’[16] as a result of a deliberate lack of promotion and the difficulty in finding out about it. Access to Work, the government programme providing support for disabled people in mainstream employment is often similarly described as a well-kept secret, but by contrast no one calls for the closure of Access to Work. Instead disabled people call for greater investment in the programme[17]. The Review itself strongly recommends extension of the ILF. Henwood and Hudson write, “we received an overwhelming view that the continued exclusion of older people from ILF support is unduly inequitable[18]”. They also recommend the removal of the ceiling cap on weekly entitlements[19] and to allow applications from those on Middle Rate Disability Living Allowance[20]. Rather than pointing to the financial unsustainability of the ILF as government members are claiming[21], the Henwood and Hudson Review calls for greater investment as part of “a broadening and deepening of the ILF role.[22]

 

Transparency

 A lack of transparency is criticised within the Review which found considerable shortcomings in the ILFs approach to user involvement and a lack of transparency and accountability in its decision making. Henwood and Hudson write:

“It became apparent in the course of the review that people’s experience of the ILF is often far from transparent: they do not know how their money has been calculated or how it should be; they have little knowledge of how the ILF operates as an organisation and who makes the decisions; and they are uncertain about whether and how they can challenge those decisions.[23]

In response to the Review, the ILF improved its user involvement structures with the introduction of a user led advisory group, and produced a new suite of information about all ILF workings and rules that has been well received for its clarity and accessibility. The review also forced the DWP to ease off its heavily constricting approach to the ILF in terms of allowing it to have any kind of communications or engagement function as a discrete organisation, which pre-review had made it almost impossible to be accountable to disabled people. Ironically many of the recommendations in the review had been made to DWP by ILF trustees for years and were ignored. Such improvements did not go as far as critics of the ILF wanted, calling for the Fund to be “scrapped and replaced by a new organisation led by service users and social workers alike”[24]. It is nevertheless more user led and transparent than most Local Authority run social care where personal budgets and support plans are frequently agreed under the discretion of a non-user led panel and rarely involve disabled people in the decision-making process. With regards to user involvement and transparency closure of the ILF and integration with personal budgets again fails to address but would instead compound the shortcomings identified by Henwood and Hudson.

Accessibility

 The Review criticises the ILF for being of restricted access to disabled people and subject to a postcode lottery of eligibility. This is attributed to the requirement introduced in 1993 that applicants must be in receipt of a designated level of social care support. Henwood and Hudson write, “The requirement for ILF recipients to be in receipt of at least £200 worth of local authority social services support (or the cash equivalent) is a further dimension of the eligibility criteria which can significantly restrict access[25]” and they cite the difficulties of qualifying for social care support under Fair Access to Care Services policies. The difficulties and variability of access to independent living support through Local Authorities is well documented. Barnes writes:

“Access to direct payments and user led support is nothing less than a post code lottery and contradicts directly all recent government rhetoric espousing the need for independent living and equal opportunities for disabled people.[26]

Elsewhere he attributes local variation to a range of factors including the on-going commitment of local politicians and councillors to traditional professionally led services, limited budgets, labour union concerns, lack of support by care managers and some professionals, inconsistencies in assessment procedures and a chronic shortage of well-resourced local PA user support groups in many areas[27]. Given the problem of “local variability” Henwood and Hudson recommend that “the Government prepares the ground for the eventuality of a national RAS [Resource Allocation System]” and the Review stresses the importance of a central lead in calculating eligibility[28]. This finding not only fails to support but presents a stark contrast to the emphasis of current government policy on local accountability and to the suggestion that Local Authority social care systems are sufficiently advanced to take on the additional functions of the ILF. 

Whilst the government were pushing ahead with integration of the ILF, its plans were within the context of localism and signified a move away from rather than towards centralisation of social care eligibility. Maria Miller said it is “our assessment” that such a large amount of public money can no longer be administered outside of statutory systems “in line with local priorities and accountable to local communities[29]”. The Condem government’s determined pursuit of a localism agenda presents a significant threat to the rights of disabled people to be an equal part of the community; without central intervention to uphold social justice local elites will not choose to invest resources in a group of people who fail to fit within traditional social values. The Dilnot Commission’s proposal for a national eligibility will not guarantee national equity. As Henwood herself says “Even if a national eligibility threshold is to be established, it would still be a matter for local authorities to make decisions about how they respond to people with a given level of need[30]”. On the other hand the ILF provided a much valued and “unusual[31]” example of national portability which could usefully inform future developments in social care with its ability to work effectively and consistently while combining national consistency whilst working in partnership with differing Local Authority policies[32]. Within the current context of localism it is something very different to advocate for the closure of the Independent Living Fund than it was in 2007 and it is important that the legacy of the ILF is captured if disabled people’s experience of not to be lost

Review findings in relation to accessibility do not support an argument that the ILF would be better administered through Local Authorities.  Consultation feedback cited in the Report shows ILF review procedures to be preferred by and in advance of Local Authority systems:

“Many people reported favourable experiences of their contact with ILF Assessors (ILFAs). In our summary of messages from the consultation exercises we noted that: “ILF assessors were seen as knowledgeable, friendly and helpful people who approached the assessment as a two-way discussion and who went out of their way to be helpful and to try to ensure that all needs were taken into account.” We noted also in the same report that many people contrasted this with their experience of assessment from social services, with the latter often seen as simply trying to limit what support or funding people would be given.[33]

Similarly:

“The actual review process followed by the ILF was generally commented upon favourably, and this reflects the positive experiences which many ILF users report of the ILF Assessors (ILFAs) who generally approach assessment and review in a friendly and accessible manner (“personable, approachable and very professional”). This conversational approach was often compared with a more ‘tick box’ experience of local authority social services. As an ILF user remarked at one of the consultation meetings, ILFAs are ‘people-people, not paper-people’. Continuity of ILFAs from one review to another was seen as particularly helpful.[34]

The superiority of services provided by the ILF prompted Henwood and Hudson to even raise the “issue of the desirability of the ILF taking the lead on all assessments for ILF and Direct Payments”[35], thereby allocating Local Authority responsibilities to the ILF rather than the other way around.

Criticisms made by the Report of ILF accessibility could equally be levelled against Local Authorities including a lack of user-friendly information (both information packs and website), the length of time for applications to be processed and irregular reviews. At a Local Authority level this situation is set to become even worse through further cut-backs with social workers already stretched beyond capacity. A recent investigation by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) found that 85% of social workers have seen notable cuts to services in the last 12 months. Two-thirds of the 1,100 respondents said they were concerned about the impact of unmanageable caseloads on their ability to deliver services[36]. It is difficult to reconcile the evidence from the coalface of Local Authority managed Adult Social Care with the Minister’s assertion that “there has been a significant development in the mainstream social care system since the Fund was established”[37] sufficient for the ILF to be adequately administered through Local Authorities.

The Review refers to the difficulties experienced by disabled people in having to negotiate separate and often inconsistent systems in order to obtain the support they need but this is not sufficient justification for closing the ILF support stream. Henwood and Hudson write, “it is wrong that individuals should have to understand and adhere to different operating systems and cope with all the accompanying confusion, bureaucracy and stress”[38] and they refer to different and contradictory operating systems in respect of issues such as charging, the treatment of benefits, occupational pensions, capital limits and upratings. Alternatives suggested by government included the  idea of a single integrated system under Local Authority control, although Government swerved the decision on future funding of social care by leaving it out of the Queen’s Speech.

 The reality of an integrated system will be a system that fails to provide an equivalent level of support to that offered by the previous dual and arguably duplicated systems. This idea is supported by direct experiences of Local Authority social care provision. In their response to the Green Paper ‘Caring for our Future’ the ILF Trustees and senior management commented:

“Our experience suggests that whilst many Local Authorities have a clear commitment to independent living, local authorities in general are increasingly and understandably focussed upon essential basic care and not upon full independent living for their service users, often being confined to meeting only critical needs other than when engaged in a joint package with the ILF.”

The reality of the limitations of a single, mainstreamed support package has been put forward by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services who told the Joint Committee on Human Rights Inquiry into Independent Living that, “in the current climate, they are unlikely to provide replacement funding for all those who would previously have qualified for ILF grants.[39]

Also they will have to review everyone under Fair Access to Care Services, not ILF criteria. Further proof of this reality is borne out by an assessment of the relative costings involved: whereas the ILF runs on a remarkably low percentage of overheads to total budget of around 2%[40], Local Authority administration will take up a notably higher proportion of the budget, thus diverting funds away from support for disabled people. In a recent survey undertaken by DPAC, out of 20 Local Authorities questioned, not one had overheads for the administration of personal budgets below 10% and the highest was 24%[41].Given the choice most disabled people would elect to continue with the frustrations of managing two separate systems if it means holding on to more of the support needed to continue living in the community.

Self-determination

The Review identifies self-determination as an area in which the ILF does not perform well when compared to cutting edge policy but ignores the reality of Adult Social Care practice as experienced in the day to day lives of disabled people. Henwood and Hudson write “Our evidence does not indicate that the ILF performs well against such criteria, particularly in comparison with the leading edge of policy and practice that is apparent elsewhere (notably in the approach of In Control).[42]” Self-determination is described as making choice a reality, requiring the development of life planning, user-led support systems, self-assessment, and resource allocation systems. At the time of carrying out the Review Individual Budget pilots were new, however there was ample evidence of the failure by Local Authorities to translate the theoretical framework of choice and control offered by Direct Payments into actuality for all but a small percentage of disabled people[43]. This should have stood as a warning against assumptions that cutting edge models of best practice would inevitably lead to general best practice. In December 2011 ILF Trustees estimated that some 60% of ILF users were still not in receipt of a Direct Payment from their Local Authority with this rate varying significantly in different areas of the UK and for different impairment groups. They commented: “This suggests that there is a long way to go before all social service users are able to exercise full choice and control over their care arrangements, and that this will continue to be a brake on the roll out of personal budgets.[44]

 Given the dramatic variation in the roll out of personal budgets from area to area it is not only unfair but inappropriate to compare the ILF against best practice in Adult Social Care as this presents a picture of inadequacy that is at odds with the experiences of many ILF recipients. Henwood and Hudson conceded that many ILF recipients spoke highly of the positive impact the Fund had had on their lives, including quotes from disabled people saying such things as “The ILF means I can get my life back” and “ILF allows you to live the life you want”[45] . The experiences of members of the campaign Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are similar as reflected by the personal account included below:

Juliet’s Story – the importance of ILF funded support

 I am 26 years old. My life changed when Rheumatoid Arthritis took hold meaning that I had to drop out of art school. My health deteriorated drastically and I lost all my mobility, I couldn’t walk or get out of bed because of pain or the discomfort of my swollen joints, and I couldn’t even do the simplest of tasks anymore.

 My family weren’t able to cope and I was given basic care from social services which consisted of 1 hour for the morning call to get me up, bath me, take me to the toilet, dress me and feed me. The lunch time call was 30 minutes; to make me lunch, help me to eat and take me to the toilet.

Even though I had this care in place my problems got worse; I lost so much weight combined with spending every day in bed put me at higher risk of developing bed sores. I spent all day everyday in my room, each day blurring into the next making me feel depressed, isolated and alone. I was just wasting away in my bed. This caused muscle wastage; I slowly lost all the muscles used to maintain balance and to walk making me more prone to falls. I didn’t recognise myself; I felt like I was cocooned in the shell of my body feeling helpless, this caused panic attacks.

 All of this put a strain on my home and social life. Before I had ILF my parents who both work full time had to help me with the most basic of tasks (getting undressed, eating dinner, assistance getting to bathroom during the night) making me feel like a burden to my own family. My social life hit a stand still as I was unable to go out and meet friends as I was to unwell to really leave the house.

 I felt like a prisoner stuck in a body that wouldn’t work, my life was restricted to my bedroom unable to eat, walk, use the toilet, even breathing and sleeping was agonizing.

 Once I got ILF, I used the extra hours of support to go to hydrotherapy and physiotherapy to build up my muscle strength. I slowly got my balance back lowering my risk of falls and gradually improved my walking meaning I wasn’t as reliant on my wheelchair and no longer at risk of bed sores as well as no longer had panic attacks about falling. I also used the extra support to get out of the house and see friends, go shopping and go to the cinema, which improved my relationships with my friends and family. I was part of the world again. I also used the extra support to help me give back to my family by making them a meal every now and then and no longer relied on my family for so much which meant I didn’t feel like a burden anymore, this improved my home life a great deal.

 As my confidence grew I used my extra support to help me attend a local committee for disabled people where I volunteered. This gave me purpose in life, opportunity to meet new people, make friends and the experience I needed to get the job I have today. I wouldn’t have been able to do all of this without the extra hours of support that I received from ILF. The basic care given by the local authority is to maintain your primary needs to survive (washing, dressing and eating). But life is so much more than that. With ILF I have quality of life and support to be a pro-active, positive person who is part of the community. I have a paid job, a social life, I am driving and I have just moved into a flat with my fiancé. I would not change being disabled and I think my condition has brought more to my life than it has taken away but it has only been possible for me to feel this way because I have the support I need.

 One key component necessary for self-determination cited by Henwood and Hudson is under increasing threat from current government cutbacks; they point to the importance of user led organisations including CILs, acknowledging  a clear correlation between direct payment support services controlled and run by disabled people and successful implementation of a direct payments strategy, and recommending “that the Government’s commitment in the Life Chances report to creating a user-led organisation modelled on existing CILs in each locality by 2010 be firmly implemented”[46]. In reality not only was the 2010 deadline not met, existing user led organisations are under increasing threat both from the continued marketization of disability support services and from spending cuts. In 2007 Barnes described how “local and national user led organisations are severely disadvantaged in the increasingly competitive market for local and national contracts for independent living and direct payment services”[47] and by 2012 the situation has only grown worse.  A recent survey by Inclusion London found that 1 in 5 Deaf and Disabled People’s Organisations in the capital facing closure as a result of cutbacks[48]. The launch in June 2011 of the Office for Disability Issues Strengthening User Led Disabled People’s Organisations programme and accompanying Facilitation Fund has done little to alleviate the problem with a maximum award of £30,000 over 3 years, restrictions that preclude spend on items including staff costs and a requirement to invoice with proof of payment rather than in advance. The importance of user led brokerage and peer support services for effective implementation of personal budgets is well evidenced[49] and the struggle for survival facing many user led organisations is yet another factor jeopardising the successful roll out of personalisation in Adult Social Care. The capacity of Adult Social Care to perform under criteria relating to self-determination is at this present time questionable at best and arguably far more questionable than the ILFs. 

Flexibility

A lack of flexibility is raised by the Review as a problem area for the LF and the Report criticises the ILF for being prescriptive on what it will fund. In conducting their Review the authors state that “it was clear that restrictions on what ILF funding can be used for limits the flexibility that people require and effectively constrains the choices they are able to make.”[50] The ILF’s focus on ‘objective costing’ is judged to be incompatible with the outcomes focus of Individual Budgets which allows more flexibility than the ILF’s limitation to spend on Personal Care and Domestic Assistance. 

In reality Local Authorities are not following the ideal, flexible model of Individual Budgets against which the Review compares the ILF. They are also guilty of being prescriptive in what they will fund and increasingly so under austerity pressures. The theory of the In Control model was that Individual Budgets could be used for whatever disabled people chose so long as it was agreed within a support plan, enabled them to meet their identified outcomes and was not for anything illegal, not for rent or mortgages, bills or groceries. How this works in practice varies from area to area. It was always a difficult concept for risk-averse Local Authorities to grapple with but now that Local Authorities are desperately searching for savings in their social care budgets, the direction of travel is for personal budgets becoming more not less prescriptive. In London Borough of Bromley personal budgets are rarely agreed for expenditure on anything other than personal care with disabled people reliant on the ILF for any wider independent living support. In various areas including London Borough of Newham support plans that budget for travel costs are routinely turned down on the basis that DLA mobility component already covers travel. In Leicester the local CIL challenged a similar policy which regarded the use of personal budgets for travel costs as ‘double funding’ but the lack of lack of objective costing used through the RAS system allows people’s packages to be cut or set at an inadequate level without a rationale for doing so. The recent judgement in R(KM) v Cambridgeshire County Council was about the RAS not being transparent[51] whilst a recent poll by Community Care found that 48% of social workers consider personal budgets to be set at too low a monetary value to achieve personalisation[52]. Since the Review the ILF has on the other hand become less prescriptive as a result of its inclusion as part of the Individual Budget pilots and the failed Right to Control Trailblazers. A lack of flexibility in how ILF monies can be spent on support for disabled people fails to provide adequate justification for closure of the Fund and for re-routing through Local Authorities when the ILF is compared not to the theory of In Control but to how personal budgets are working in practice.

Discrepancy between Government Proposals and Review findings

The Review’s longer term recommendation that the Independent Living Fund should be closed was based on a view that it was anomalous and its functions needed to be integrated into a wider, more streamlined system of independent living support that is more able to deliver the portability and consistency that disabled people valued in the ILF. The Report points to areas of learning for any integrated system from the expertise of the ILF with regards to its national portability and the approach of ILF assessors preferred by many disabled people to that of their social workers. Although the anomalies of the ILF being a discretionary trust are recommended for attention, the Review finds that reporting and accounting for the functions of the ILF should remain within the DWP[53].

The Review does not recommend that the ILF should close and its role be taken over by Local Authorities in line with local priorities and local accountability. Maria Miller asserted that “The outcomes that [the ILF] supported can now be delivered within the Local Authority managed care and support system through personal budgets and direct payments[54]”. The Review does not support this claim with its criticism of postcode eligibility and calls for a national RAS[55] and is more cautious in its approach: “We recommend that no immediate transfer of ILF funding and remit is made to local government, but in our Review of the Independent Living Funds conclusions we recommend that in the medium term there should be full integration with Individual Budgets.[56]

The Review did not find the ILF financially unsustainable. Michael Ellis MP asserted that the current government’s opinion that the ILF is financially unsustainable was shared by Henwood and Hudson[57]. In fact, some of the Henwood and Hudson Report recommendations would have required significant additional expenditure by government, including extending eligibility to recipients of the Middle Rate Care Component of Disability Living Allowance as well as older people and those with terminal illness and less than six months to live.

The Review did make a number of recommendations which were never actioned. There has been no explanation for how Henwood and Hudson’s ‘under-pinning assumption’ that there should be “no loss of service for ILF users”[58] can be reconciled with proposals for Local Authorities to take over administering the Fund. Any analysis of the figures argues against the possibility of government being able to ensure this whilst pursuing their current course. We have already mentioned that the recommendation to implement recommendation 4.3 of the Improving Life Chances report, to ensure there was a user led organisation on the model of a centre for independent living in every local area, was missed. Recommendations which would have had financial implications were also ignored including work on removing the joint ceiling cap, making ILF funding available to support disabled people in their parenting roles, removing the requirement to take a partner’s benefits capital into account in assessing for ILF eligibility, disregarding Disabled Students Grant and any loan in calculating an ILF award, and taking account of the costs disabled parents face if their children are in further or higher education. That none of the groups of people who would have been affected by the above recommendations will benefit from the ILF’s integration into Adult Social Care is a surety with awards subject to the multiple limitations of FACS, charging and ever decreasing budgets.

Henwood and Hudson are happy to go along with government claims that current policy with respect to the ILF is underpinned by their Review. In a written ministerial statement on 13 December 2010, Maria Miller announced that following consultation it had been concluded “that the model of the ILF as an independent discretionary trust delivering social care is financially unsustainable”. In an article in Community Care Henwood and Hudson pointed to how this decision reflected the core conclusion of their Review “that it is highly anomalous for significant amounts of public money to be placed in the hands of a cash-limited, discretionary fund administered by a board of trustees.[59]” It should be noted that nobody, including the trustees, has ever argued that a discretionary trust is the most appropriate way to deliver ILF support by the way. As we have seen, a closer examination not only of their actual findings but crucially of the value base underpinning the Review as compared to government proposals for the future of the ILF reveals less of a fit than either they or government would have us believe.

Conclusion: What is at stake and what we need

The scale of what is at stake for disabled people with the loss of the ILF is overwhelming, both at an individual level in terms of loss of autonomy and the choice to live in the community and politically in terms of the position of disabled people in society and our right to citizenship. By comparison, issues around how the trust is administered and duplication of systems pales into insignificance.  Do disabled people really care how many people are signing off pieces of paper when they are being forced out of their homes into residential care, when disabled young people unable to apply for ILF are seeing a future ahead devoid of independence and any of the life chances enjoyed by their non-disabled peers?  If Henwood and Hudson want to take credit for bringing about this situation then more fool them. Congratulating the government on the decision to take action over the ILF will not persuade them to be any more careful with protecting against loss of service for the existing ILF recipients and will do nothing to influence translation of rhetoric about establishing national equity in social care into any sort of reality. This government is set on pushing through reform based on clear ideological agendas: their determination on the one hand to undermine the welfare state and remove entitlement to state support and on the other to promote localism. The ILF does not fit with these agendas and closing it is a way to save money. The interests of disabled people are about as far from the government’s plans for the ILF as they could be.

The current situation whereby the ILF has closed to new applicants with no alternative put in its place is already having an impact which sees the UK government in breach of the rights of disabled people under Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and the rights for disabled people to live in the community with equal choices, to choose where and how they live, to have the support they need in order not to be socially isolated or segregated and to have equal access to community services. Worcestershire and Newcastle are examples of Councils proposing to cap the amount they will pay for community-based support for disabled people, forcing disabled people with needs in excess of the cap to either rely on family support or to have to move into residential care. ILF Trustees and Senior Managers have reported that “Local authority representatives have told us that supported living placements for this group are becoming harder to finance since ILF stopped accepting applications, and that the removal of the ILF as exemplary provider of new large support packages is helping to reinforce a local view that Councils can now ignore this aspect of equality for disabled people with their non-disabled colleagues”[60]. However there is no statistical evidence on what is happening to disabled people who would previously have been eligible for ILF and the impact of the closure from March 2010 because, as DPAC has uncovered through surveying Local Authorities, no one is monitoring this. It is clear that Local Authorities are not prepared to make up the difference: Birmingham stated “The Council does not make up any difference in funding” while Northampton referred to finding ways to enable disabled people to meet their needs (previously covered by the ILF) themselves![61]

To date there has been no adequate consultation or review on which to justifiably base a decision to firstly close the ILF and then to transfer its functions to Local Authorities. The Henwood and Hudson Review concentrated on improvements needed within the internal operational and strategic workings of the ILF and lacked any satisfactory evidence-based analysis of the place of the ILF within the context of wider social care and support systems. They concluded that the set up of the ILF resulted in “inequity, lack of accountability, overlap and duplication of functions, arbitrary decisions and major confusion for disabled people seeking support for independent living”[62]. All evidence points to the fact that these failings will not be addressed by transfer to Local Authority administration, they will be severely compounded. The former Minister spoke about the need for “the social care support needs of all disabled people to be delivered equitably as part of local authorities’ broader independent living strategies” but how this can be achieved within a localism agenda and “in line with local priorities and local accountability” is doubtful[63]. In a more recent Review Henwood writes “There are some considerable tensions between the pursuit of national consistency, portability of entitlement and localism. How these will be resolved in practice is unclear.[64]” Meanwhile there is a weight of experience to indicate that Local Authorities will not be able to successfully assume the functions of the ILF and deliver an equivalent level of service to support disabled people in the community. ILF Trustees and senior management have commented that “Despite attempts through the personalisation agenda for adult social care to support life in the community, with its primary focus on safeguarding and protecting ‘vulnerable people’ from being without basic levels of support, ASC supplied by Local Authorities has, in the experience of the most severely disabled people, been unable to effectively tackle their exclusion from society”[65]. There are many unanswered questions concerning government proposals for the ILF, for example how can there be no loss of service for current users given the higher overheads costs that Local Authorities will require from the total ILF budget in order to administer it, also how assuming the functions of the ILF can be satisfactorily achieved when social workers are unable to manage their existing workloads.

In light of a lack of adequate consultation and review to date and the seriousness of what is at risk for disabled people and for civilised society it is not unreasonable to expect a dedicated consultation and review to examine the question of independent living support for disabled people and how this can be provided in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This will not be achieved through the Care Bill which will be focused on the wider question of future funding for social care and will not cover the detail needed to ensure protection under the UNCRPD. This is something we therefore need to demand.

This is an updated version of a critique of the Henwood and Hudson report that appeared on the DPAC site in 2012. It is one which is now even more relevant with the additional cuts to local authorities, the failings and problems of the Care Bill processes and the cumulative attacks on disabled peoples’ right to live independently.

Not only should the long-term future of the ILF now be secured, but it should be re-opened to new applicants –anything else represents a retrogressive step in the promotion of independent living and a breach of article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

 

 

Nov 092013
 

Disabled people plan more direct action in Sheffield

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Press enquiries:

Sheffield DPAC: Tel: 07956 856060 | Email: danpress@blueyonder.co.uk

UK Uncut: Tel: 07928 429752 | Email: sheffield.uncut@hotmail.co.uk

 Disabled people in Sheffield have announced plans for more direct action against the cuts in Sheffield.   Sheffield Disabled People Against the Cuts – Sheffield DPAC – are launching a direct action network at a public meeting taking place at the Central United Reform Church, Norfolk St, Sheffield at 6pm on 12 November.[i]  


Sheffield DPAC will bring together disabled people, carers, supporters, friends and families to fightwhich they say are threatening the lives and livelihoods of disabled people in the UK[ii]

 

The network will raise awareness about the disproportionate effect that cuts are having on disabled people, from unaffordable energy prices[iii], The Bedroom Tax[iv] and the closure of essential community lifelines such as public libraries[v] to the loss of disability benefits and the impact of the Atos Work Capability Assessment.[vi]

 

The announcement follows Sheffield DPAC’s first direct action event on 5 November, when up to 100 people attended ‘The Closing Atos Ceremony 2013’ targeting government ‘fitness for work’ contractor Atos in Sheffield.[vii] 

 

Linda Laurie, Sheffield DPAC, said:

 

“Disabled people, our friends and families mustorganise to defeat the state’s attacks on disabled people.  Sheffield DPAC is working with public sector trades union and community groups to stop these attacks.  Sheffield DPAC demands that the ConDem Government immediately withdraws all contracts from Atos without compensation and scraps the Work Capability Assessment, giving the funding back to the NHS.  We also demand the abolition of the wasteful and punitive Work Programme which pays millions to private companies; if work needs doing, people should be paid a living wages for doing it.  Unpaid work takes away work from workers and undermines wages.  Sheffield DPAC also demands an end to The Bedroom Tax and demands the reversal of public service, and other benefit cuts.  Benefit claimants did not cause the financial crisis or the public spending deficit so why should the poorest people, including disabled people, pay for it?”

 

ENDS

Notes to editors:  Disability rights activists are available to talk to the media, please contact the Sheffield DPAC or UKUncut Sheffield media phone for details.  Please do not pass on contact details to external bodies or agencies.

 



[i] Sheffield DPAC Launch Meeting https://www.facebook.com/ukuncut.sheffield#!/events/421434917957473/?fref=ts

 

[ii]http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/category/media/

 

[iii]“The victims: Old, sick and in dread of winter”

 http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/personal-finance/energy-price-rises-see-winter-2359666

 

[iv]http://campaigndpac.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/what-next-on-the-bedroom-tax/

 

[v] Library closure councils ‘neglecting the vulnerable’

http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2011/sep/27/library-closure-councils-neglect-vulnerable?guni=Article:in%20body%20link

 

[vi]http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/tag/cuts-and-effects/

 

[vii] “Protesters’ day of action”

http://www.thestar.co.uk/news/local/protesters-day-of-action-1-6218232

 

Nov 082013
 

Statement by Anne Pridmore, Gabriel Pepper and Stuart Bracking

As three of the Independent Living Fund users who have challenged the legality of the government’s decision to close the Fund, we welcome the Appeal Court’s unanimous ruling that this decision should be quashed.

Given the Government has decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court, the new Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning will now have to reconsider the Government’s approach to the future of the Independent Living Fund and its users.

Rather than being the ‘privileged group’ referred to in the High Court judgement, the Appeal Court has acknowledged the potentially very grave impact the closure of the Fund would have on its users, putting seriously in peril the ability of a large number of people to live independent lives in their own homes, and pursue activities such as employment and education.

They concluded that when Disabled People’s Minister Esther McVey made her decision in 2012 to finally close the Fund by April 2015, she did not properly consider the need to advance our equality of opportunity, minimise the disadvantage we face, encourage independent living, and promote our participation in public life and other social activities.

For a generation, the Independent Living Fund has provided funding to support disabled people with complex conditions who need personal assistance to live in the community.

Twenty years ago, Disabled People’s Minister Nicholas Scott who founded the Fund in 1988 explained its importance to the House of Commons (25/2/1993): “It has helped those severely disabled people who did not want to go into residential care but who could not live in the community without a considerable degree of domiciliary support to maintain their independence. That is something that we can all applaud and welcome.” This is as true today as it was then.

In the same speech, Nicholas Scott also acknowledged there were limits to the financial support local authority social services could provide some disabled people: “If it is necessary for extra help to be provided….it will be open to the social worker who assesses the needs of disabled people to say, ‘We can provide services up to this level but we believe that a further level of care is necessary,’ and then to turn to the Independent Living Fund.”

The Independent Living Fund has provided a platform for social opportunities to be pursued by severely disabled people in large numbers for the first time in history.

The careers, family life, friendships, social activities and roles people have built for themselves could be undermined and in many cases dismantled if the Fund closes.

Although the Appeal Court ruled the consultation which preceded Esther McVey’s closure decision was lawful, we believe there is now an opportunity to reflect on our society’s responsibilities towards those who rely on the welfare state to keep them safe, healthy and free of distress.

Last year, 2000 individuals and organisations responded to this consultation, but the Court of Appeal held the real substance of the consultation responses were not conveyed to Disabled People’s Minister Esther McVey. An opportunity for an open, democratic debate was lost.

By responding to the World Health Organisation’s recommendation in the World Report on Disability that countries should provide services in the community and not in residential institutions or segregated settings and plan how to achieve this, the human and civil rights of disabled people of all ages could be respected, not just those of Independent Living Fund users

Until a decision is taken to save the Independent Living Fund and open it to new applicants with adequate funding to meet people’s individually assessed needs, the fear many disabled people have expressed about their future will not disappear.

This fear stems from an understanding of the impact limited support in the community will have on people’s life chances, or for some of us the low standards and rigid approaches to personal care found in residential and nursing homes which place people at risk of skin conditions, sores and sepsis.

Many Independent Living Fund users are also acutely aware that, as long-term employers of personal assistants, if they are forced into residential care their knowledge of the law and care standards will bring them into collision with poor management and abusive cultures where they exist.

There is also a significant risk for people with learning difficulties and/or autism of physical and emotional abuse in segregated settings where restraint and drugs are used to control behaviour that is defined as ‘challenging’ rather than being approached with patience, compassion and kindness.

The fear of residential care that exists among Independent Living Fund users with ‘round-the-clock’ needs also exists among large layers of the general public.

When reconsidering the Government’s approach to the future of the Independent Living Fund, the new Disabled People’s Minister Mike Penning could give the Fund a long-term future under the democratic control of its users, but also commit the Government to respect existing rights to an individual assessment of need.

His Government could give disabled people of all ages the right to live in the community throughout their lives with the personal assistance and professional services they need, rather than the artificial and segregated environments found in residential care.

We urge Mike Penning to grasp this opportunity and remove the uncertainty many thousands of severely disabled people and their families have experienced for several years.

We would like to express our sincerest thanks to: our fellow claimants Paris L’amour and John Aspinall and his parents Evonne and Paul Taylforth; the tireless work of solicitors Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn, Kate Whittaker and Diane Astin of Scott-Moncrieff and Associates, and our barrister Mr David Wolfe QC; the supportive intervention of the Equality and Human Rights Commission; and Independent Living Fund user Kevin Caulfield’s networking and guidance during the case.

We also acknowledge those Independent Living Fund users who have highlighted the impact closure would have on their lives, particularly Penny Pepper, Sophie Partridge and Mary Laver, which is not easy given the privacy most Independent Living Fund users and their families strive for.

We would also like to thank: Disabled People Against Cuts and Inclusion London for the campaign coordinated by Linda Burnip, Debbie Jolly, Tracey Lazard and Ellen Clifford; other users of the Fund and disabled activists who have attended protests and vigils and supported the campaign; the two thousand organisations and largely anonymous individuals who responded to the Independent Living Fund consultation a year ago; the support of the PCS union and the workers at the Independent Living Fund; our personal assistants; the work of campaigning journalist Kate Belgrave; and the consistent reporting of this issue by John Pring at the Disability News Service.

The future is ours to shape, but only if the personal assistance we need is present.

Nov 082013
 

Breaking news: the claimants in the ILF case have heard that the Government will not be appealing the decision taken by the courts on Wednesday to quash the closure of the Independent living Fund. All processes related to the closure e.g transition interviews for ILF users have been halted.

We all owe a great debt of gratitude to the five ILF users that took this to the courts and the solicitors and barristers who worked tirelessly, as well as all those involved in the research processes, and in supporting this. It has proved that disabled people can and will fight back, it has proved that disabled people can win.

DPAC want to thank all that supported this . We want to say to those organisations that didn’t , or claimed nothing would change, if you do not fight back now at a time of massive and savage cuts maybe its unlikely that you ever will, in which case you can no longer speak in the name of disabled people-there is one voice and that is the voice of people at the grass roots who appear to be fighting everything without you.

DPAC is proud to have supported and worked with the ILF case since it began, and we will continue to work against the cuts and abuse of human rights by this Government and any other through every means possible

for more on the case see: http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/appeal-court-quash-decision-to-close-indepdent-living-fund/

 

 

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