Jun 282014
 

The leadership of the Church of England showed themselves to have the morals of sewer rats today after hundreds of police were drafted in to prevent a peaceful protest by disabled campaigners.

westminister2download westminsterabbey-protest2

A protest was taking place in the grounds of Westminster Abbey, where Disabled People Against Cuts, backed by Occupy and UK Uncut, intended to establish a camp for independent living to highlight the shameful decision by the current Government to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF).  Whilst many people were able to enter the grounds of the Abbey, with several disabled activists taking control of the gates, they were soon joined by hundreds of police.

Whilst the protest was being established a letter was presented to the church explaining the reason for the disruption.  This was completely ignored by the Dean of Westminster, John Hall, who instead of meeting with the protesters, or even giving a statement, cowered inside and allowed the police to carry out his dirty work.  At the time I left two people had been arrested, for reasons which are currently unclear.  Over 200 police kettled the 60 or so protesters, which included many severely disabled people who use the ILF themselves.  Police refused to allow any food or drink for those inside the Abbey grounds, and even prevented a severely disabled person’s personal assistant from entering the kettle.

At one point, so desperate were the police to arrest someone for nothing,  they charged into the crowd causing people to fall onto several wheelchair users.  Such was the sudden aggression of police it is a miracle no-one was severely injured although unconfirmed reports suggest one disabled person did have to receive treatment after this assault.  Police also attempted to remove access ramps for wheelchairs users to prevent them from being able to peacefully protest in the Abbey grounds.  Equipment was damaged and police prevented the planned disabled toilet and other infra-structures to be created which would have led to a safe event.  Throughout the afternoon all those inside the grounds remained at risk of violent arrest, and in fact, as you read this, that might be happening.

The protest was held on private property, meaning that the church leadership were happy for all of this to take place.  At any point the Dean of Westminster could have ordered police to stand down, yet he chose to allow this abuse to continue unchecked throughout  the afternoon.  Hundreds of people contacted him on twitter demanding the protest be allowed to continue without this police harassment.  The Dean ignored all of them.

Throughout the afternoon all attempts at negotiation with the church leadership were rebuffed.  Instead the Dean of Westminster let the boots and fists of the ever willing London Met do his talking for him.

Whilst no-one expects anything less from the police, who have a history of attacking and injuring disabled protesters, the action, or inaction of the church leadership is a fucking disgrace.  The Dean of Westminster would rather disabled people are abused, kettled, assaulted and kept without food or water than allow a creative protest against vicious cuts which are likely to lead to some people being forced to live in institutions.

The latest news is that those inside the Abbey grounds are currently meeting to decide what to do next.  With no word from the Church then staying could mean mass arrests in the ground of the Abbey.  Whatever the occupiers decide you can show support by telling Westminster Abbey @wabbey and the Dean of Westminster @deanwestminster exactly what you think.  After today’s shameful behaviour he must be hoping that the existence of hell really is just something liars use to scare children with.

 

Then come and join next Friday’s Independence Day demonstration outside the DWP and make it the biggest protest yet to show that no-one is going to be frightened away from fighting to save the ILF.

For the latest news follow @Dis_PPL_Protest on twitter or visit their website at:  http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/

Read the statement from DPAC on the reason for the protest:http://www.independentliving-fightback.uk/online/

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

 

Reposted from Johnny Void with thanks the protesters had no option but to leave the site-more soon-many thanks to the Abbey for protecting their interests and their income from tourists, over arguing in solidarity for justice for disabled people #saveilf  

Jun 282014
 

See website at http://www.independentliving-fightback.uk/online/

Disabled people and our allies are taking action over the closure of the Independent Living Fund because this Tory government wants to take away our lives – they want us to go back to the days of being hidden away, trapped in our homes or institutionalised. While the politicians fight with UKIP over who can point the finger at migrants most threateningly we know that the Victorian values with which they justify their brutality come not from overseas but from elitist public schools like Eton (attended by Cameron and co.) and Dulwich College (attended by fake ‘man-of-the-people’ Farage).

We refuse to be fooled by their lies. We are here to point the finger firmly back at them, to make sure that everybody knows what this government is doing to us. There can be no more pretence that ‘we are all in it together’ from a government that is trampling on the rights of disabled people to participate in society as equals.

Disabled people are being targeted by the cuts as part of a wider ideological agenda that seeks to dismantle the welfare state and attack workers in the interests of profit for the 1%. Disabled people are taking action with our allies as part of a united resistance that stands up against the scapegoating of benefit claimants and migrants and against attacks on workers, the unemployed, single mothers, students and pensioners.

When we come together we have the power to make change happen. Fight to win.

See website at http://www.independentliving-fightback.uk/online/


 

Press release

Disabled people occupy Westminster in protest against Government attacks

Disabled people and supporters opposing the closure of the Independent Living Fund (1) have occupied a site opposite Parliament in protest against government attacks on disabled people’s right to live in the community freely and with dignity.

At 4pm a group of around 100 ILF recipients and their supporters moved into a space in the grounds of Westminster Abbey to set up the occupation. Wheelchair users including Silent Witness actor Liz Carr have chained themselves to block the gates shut while an accessible campsite is erected complete with hoists and equipment. Disabled people intend to stay on the site and urge the government to re-open the Independent Living Fund and guarantee disabled people’s right to independent living. A letter has been sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury urging the church not to take action against the protestors.

The ILF is the subject of an ongoing battle between disabled people and the Government. In November 2013 the Court of Appeal quashed the Department for Work and Pension’s decision to close the Fund, citing the “grave detrimental impact” on exiting ILF recipients (2). In March 2014 Minister for Disabled People Mike Penning announced a new decision to close the ILF from June 2015. Under current proposals responsibility for fully meeting the support needs of disabled people will fall to already cash strapped local authorities (3). Since the closure of the ILF to new applicants in December 2010 disabled people who missed out on the Fund are living in isolation and without their basic needs being met.

Kevin Caulfield, an ILF recipient said, “Changes brought in by this government herald the end of independent living for disabled people and the return to a segregated society where disabled people are warehoused away. Ironically at a time when the public is up in arms about abuse in care homes, current government policy will return disabled people to exactly those places where we are most at risk of abuse. Disabled people fought hard over many years to fight our way out of the institutions to live and participate alongside our families and friends. We won’t go back. We will fight back.”

Ellen Clifford from Disabled People Against Cuts (4) who are supporting the occupation said, “The message from the government is that disabled people cost too much. But there’s enough money to bail out the banks or to pay millions to private companies to mess up our welfare system. Last year in the UK the super-rich increased their wealth while disabled people starved to death(5). Austerity is the choice our government of millionaires is making. Investing in a society where disabled people have equal access is the choice that we’re fighting for.”

Alison Playford from Occupy London, who are also supporting the action said, ““The devastation currently being visited upon disabled people in Britain is not the result of a broken system. The economic system works as intended – to exploit and punish the 99% while increasing the wealth and power of the 1%. The system that is attacking disabled people is the same system that is attacking migrants and low paid workers. It is the same system that caused the economic crisis and is destroying our natural environment. Members of the Occupy movement are taking action alongside Disabled People Against Cuts because we stand with all those who are building a society that services the wellbeing of people and the planet, not the accumulation of profit.”


Notes for editors

1) The Independent Living Fund was set up in 1988 to support disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently in the community.

2) http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/522372-ILF-Briefing-Note-06-11-2013.pdf?381f66

3) http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/ILF-briefing-13-June-2014.pdf?d2895a

4) Disabled People Against Cuts was set up in 2010 to oppose the disproportionate impact of the cuts on disabled people. Research by the Centre for Social Reform has shown that disabled people with the highest levels of support need are being hit nineteen times harder than the average person. http://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/library/by-date/ten-attacks-on-disabled-peoples-rights.html

5) http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/feb/28/man-starved-to-death-after-benefits-cut

 Posted by at 16:06
Jun 262014
 

Join Sheffield #DPAC outside courts on 7th July

sheffielddpac

A peaceful direct action by disabled people and older people at Sheffield train station against South Yorkshire Transport for revoking free travel from March 31st has been marred once more by aggressive police actions. There have been peaceful direct actions since April.

Sixty protesters took part on 23rd June two were arrested and a blind freedom rider was knocked about falling on top of an activist in a wheelchair. George and Tony who were arrested are in court in Sheffield on 7th July.

Jen Dunstan, of Sheffield Disabled People Against the Cuts, told the Star: “Dozens of elderly and disabled people have been left with bruising. Some have cuts where their skin has broken from being pushed and shoved.

“A placid and calm gentleman was roughly manhandled. I am angry and shocked. The police are meant to protect elderly people.”

A Sheffield Star reporter was also warned to stop filming or he would be arrested under ‘anti terrorism laws’ by railway staff.

The Protesters have the full support of DPAC

Temporary pay pal account for the freedom ride campaign fund. 
Please donate suggested donation of £ 2 if you wish to support and * only * if you can afford it HERE

Support Sheffield DPAC on Facebook HERE

contact: dpacsheffield@gmail.com

See video and you decide what form of justice is being used….

Jun 242014
 

A peaceful direct action by disabled people and older people at Sheffield train station against South Yorkshire Transport for revoking free travel from March 31st has been marred once more by aggressive police actions.  There have been peaceful direct actions since April.

Sixty protesters took part yesterday (23rd June) two were arrested and a blind freedom rider was knocked about falling on top of an activist in a wheelchair.  George and Tony who were arrested are in court in Sheffield on 7th July.

David Kirkham (UKUncut Sheffield) said in April:

“SYPTE say they can no longer afford concessionary travel for disabled people and older people on South Yorkshire trains. These concessions are a lifeline for people in South Yorkshire, one of the most deprived areas of the country with the lowest average income. People rely on the concessions to get to work, reach medical appointments and to travel to places of education. The claim that concessions are unaffordable on trains in South Yorkshire sits ill with the fact that the chief operator of trains in South Yorkshire, Northern Rail, made £40.1m profit on the back of inflation busting fare rises, according to latest available figures (4) Northern Rail are also part owned by Serco and Dutch national rail operator Abellio; Serco received billions in public subsidy each year (5) for government contracts and have also been accused of defrauding the taxpayer over their prison contracts. A company that already makes huge profits on the back of profiteering from the tax payer and shifting profits out of the country to The Netherlands, which refuses to disclose how much public money goes into the pockets of shareholders and directors has a hard time convincing people it cannot afford to allow people for whom its trains are a vital lifeline to travel on them for free.”

People from across South Yorkshire have been taking direct action to overturn the decision by South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive to remove the right to free travel for all concession holders on South Yorkshire trains; the legality of this decision is currently being challenged in the courts.

DPAC sends solidarity to the protesters and to George Arthur and Tony Nuttall. There will be a locally based fund raiser for any fines. Please see video where five police in explicitly hold down one protester despite his lack of resistance.

Jun 232014
 

We want to congratulate the Peoples Assembly and all who joined the successful demo in London on the 21st June.

Over the weekend various accounts have surfaced on social media in relation to DPAC and the event. We would like to clarify that the DPAC steering group have not released any prior statements nor spoken to any bloggers on this issue

 We are posting below the key points of a statement sent by the DPAC steering group to Peoples Assembly organisers on the 9th June in which we raised particular issues -to date we have not received a response or acknowledgement.

“Whilst we welcome the calling of a demonstration bringing
together anti-austerity campaigns with union members, DPAC is unable to support with fundraising for access. We are at full
capacity fundraising for our own activities-   We are disappointed that access has still not been mainstreamed within the Peoples’ Assembly infrastructure.

We do not consider it appropriate that access should be sidelined and delegated out  to DPAC rather than mainstreamed with the Peoples’ Assembly. The equipment needed to ensure inclusion is neither an optional consumer choice nor a charity need.

With regard to the participation of DPAC members in the themed  block, ‘Welfare not Warfare’ (or Housing and Social Security) our position is that as a grassroots campaign not a top-down bureaucratic organisation, we cannot tell our members where to march. Some of us feel it recreates the
segregation and containment of disabled people of which there
is a long and painful history. It also denies the productive
contribution many of our members undertake despite many
barriers, which viciously impact our work roles and pay
levels.

For all our members who do wish to march in the Welfare-themed block they may find their non-disabled friends and allies drawn away to the other sections, reducing the social-ness of this occasion. Whilst everyone will to some extent be faced with the same decision of where to march, for disabled people  this kind of division and exclusion from social participation is painfully routine.

The rationale that the blocks graphically depict the different
sections of society / areas of social life affected by
austerity has not been thought through from the perspective of disabled people. If a signal is to be sent that all sections
of society oppose austerity and are prepared to organize in a
disciplined way shoulder to shoulder then attention must be paid to making solidarity with disabled peoples’ struggle against victimization and exclusion a reality, and not just pay lip service to it or treat us as objects. Nobody would dream of proposing a block of Black and Minority Ethnic  people flanked by white blocks, so why are disabled people to be herded together?

(DPAC Steering Group sent to Peoples Assembly organisers 9th June)

 We had decided to keep this statement a private matter between DPAC and the Peoples Assembly. However due to the continuing comments and misinterpretations on social media we have no option but to go public with this to counter some of the unhelpful assumptions that are being made.

 We look forward to working constructively with the Peoples Assembly in the future and appreciate that some limited attempt at access was provided on the 21st.

 However, until the costs of meeting access needs are recognised as a vital and non-negotiable cost by all event organisers disabled people will remain marginalised and excluded. The key issue for all events including the 21st June is that access should be mainstreamed from the beginning – not added as an afterthought

 

 

Jun 192014
 

The ILF has transformed People’s lives.  The Independent Living Fund does what it says on the tin – it liberates people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to, to live independently.  It lets them make choices about how they live – things we often take for granted: when to get up or go to bed, what and when to eat.  It allows them to work, to be active in the community and to live in their own homes.

 

I challenge the Minister today to guarantee that those currently in receipt of ILF won’t become less independent as a result of his decision to close it in June 2015. Because that’s what people fear.  That’s what they are frightened of.  They fear losing their jobs, losing those staff they employ to support them and losing their independence.  They fear being forced out of their homes and into institutions.

 

The Minister may say he’s passing the monies and responsibility to Local Authorities but this will not ease their fear.  And he is rather naïve if he thinks that absolves him from his responsibilities for this decision.  I’m afraid he can’t get away with devolving responsibility and blame for the consequences of his decision to others.  That’s why I ask him for these guarantees today.  For a start Disabled People Against Cuts calculate the current annual cost of support at around £288 million yet the government only identified £262 million to transfer to local authorities.   And it gives no reassurances that this money will be ring fenced to be spent only on supporting disabled people to live independently rather than absorbed into broader council budgets.

 

According to SCOPE £2.68 billion has been cut from adult social care budgets in the last 3 years alone, equating to 20 per cent of net spending.  This is happening at a time when the numbers of working-age disabled people needing care is projected to rise by 9.2% from 2010 to 2020.  In a recent survey 40% of disabled people reported that social care services already fail to meet their basic needs like washing, dressing or getting out of the house.  And 47% of respondents said that the services they receive do not enable them to take part in community life.

 

So it’s not surprising that people are desperately worried about their future.

The worry is that continued underfunding of social care will mean the care system will simply not be able to support disabled people to live independently.  The lack of reference to ‘independent living’ under the definition of the ‘well-being principle’ in the Care Bill which local authorities will need to take into account when providing care further fuels this anxiety.

 

And it’s not just people in receipt of ILF who are worried – it’s their friends, their carers and their families too.  The cases of two of my constituents illustrate this well.

 

 

Ashley Harrison is a Scunthorpe United fan like me cheering on the Iron at Glanford Park. At 10 months old he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.  He will turn 30 this year.  Ashley has lived in his own bungalow since 2006.  The ILF allows him to employ his own team of carers.  Ashley is an inspirational man, a fighter but he is worried that the control over his future is being taken away from him.

 

His mother says:

 

‘The closure of the ILF would be nothing less than devastating for us as a family. Since Ashley was awarded his ILF allowance the whole family’s lives have changed for the better. ILF understands Ashley’s needs and always do everything they can to constantly improve Ashley’s life and enable him to live independently.

As a family naturally all we have ever wanted is the best for Ashley, which the ILF has helped us achieve. The ILF has always seemed to be the leading and positive force at meetings ensuring that social services match and meet Ashley’s needs. Without the ILF we all face a very uncertain future. The uncertainty that Ashley faced in his early years prior to receiving his ILF award have been daunting, frustrating and of course a constant battle with social services.

The alleged “smooth transfer” over to social services is already proving to be nothing of the sort.  Each and every meeting we hold (which are incredibly frequent) leave us having to justify Ashley’s needs as a disabled person.  The assessments they ask us to complete are totally unsuitable for the severely disabled.

All of the disabled people living independently with the help of ILF are living their lives to the full. The fear is that if ILF closes these people will lose their human rights and dignity to live their lives as they should.

As a mother who’s fought the last 30 years for Ashley to have the life he wants and of course deserves, I dread to think what the next generation of disabled people will have to endure without the positive support of the ILF.

I beg you to listen to myself as a mother of a disabled son and also listen to all those disabled voices who deserve to be heard.

Give each and every person the ability to live and achieve their dreams just as you and I can.

The Paralympics just proves how amazing disabled people can be!!!’

 

 

Jon Clayton is also in receipt of ILF.  Like Ashley he has carers whom he employs who understand his disability.  His sister writes

 

‘My brother Jon is quadriplegic having been involved in an accident which was not his fault at the age of 18. He is now 54. 

He is one of life’s truly inspirational people; an accomplished mouth artist – a gift he only knew he had after his life changing accident-  living independently in his own home. He freely gives his time mentoring other disabled persons, helping them come to terms with another life. A life without limbs. A life without walking.


He has always sought to live as normal a life as possible. Having gone through marriage, divorce, being a step father, losing a partner.

He is both ordinary and extraordinary.

He relies heavily on his full time carers. Carers who he personally has ensured are trained to an appropriate and exceptional level to look after a person with specific and defined needs. One false move and he could (and has) spent 18 months bed bound with a pressure sore at the expense of some ill trained nurse.


His carers are trusted to ensure and give a high level of care, entrusted with the most personal of tasks from catheter changing, toileting, dressing etc.  This has been part of Jon’s life since his accident. Something he has taken on with humour and dignity.

If the ILF is removed Jon will be unable to live independently. Being able to engage in what you and I would consider a normal life. He will be unable to travel, have holidays, visit family, visit friends. 

The ILF has enabled independence. Given life, where life seemed over.

I would therefore urge you to do all you can to prevent this life enabling function – the ILF – from being eroded’

 

A fundamental concern for Jon, Ashley and others is whether they will be able to employ their specialist staff in the future.  North Lincolnshire Council’s responded to this question on 9th June 2014:

 

‘We appreciate this situation may cause you concern as an existing Independent Living Fund customer and would wish to reduce any worry or anxiety you may have.

 

Allocation of future monies will be based on your updated assessment and support plan and on future Local Authority funding so at this stage we cannot give any specific guidance on the amount of monies that you may receive from us or cannot give guarantees on the future employment status of any Personal Assistants you may currently employ.’

 

As you can imagine such ‘reassurance’ only serves to heighten anxieties and build mistrust!

 

So I return to my central question – will the government guarantee that Ashley Jon and all those currently in receipt of ILF will not lose their independence as a result of their decision to close it.  A decision I believe is aimed at saving money but might end up costing more in other budget areas such as health.  A better way forward would be for government to engage with ILF recipients learn from their experience and find ways of shaping future services that are cost effective but continue to deliver true independence.

 

As Disabled People Against Cuts points out for the 17,500 people in receipt of ILF ‘the closure of the Fund will have a devastating impact on the lives on these individuals and their families.  It also has a much wider significance because at the heart of this is the fundamental question of disabled people’s place in society: do we want a society that keeps its disabled citizens out of sight, prisoners in their own homes or locked away in institutions, surviving not living or do we want a society that enables disabled people to participate, contribute and enjoy the opportunities, choice and control that non-disabled people take for granted?’

Or in Mahatma Ghandi’s words “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”

 

People like Jon and Ashley are not weak but strong.  The ILF gives them independence and liberates their strengths. Now is the opportunity for the Minister to guarantee their future independence will not be compromised by the closure of the ILF.

 

http://www.nicdakin.com/ilfspeech.html

 

DPAC would like to thank Nic and all the supportive MPs at the adjournment debate on ILF on 18th June 2014

 

See the ILF debate at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/democracylive/house-of-commons-27884690

 

 

Jun 182014
 

Derbyshire Anti Cuts campaigners witnessed the Disgraceful move by Labour-controlled Derbyshire County Council Cabinet yesterday voting through cuts and charges to adult social care services that Derbyshire disabled people rely on.

 

Derbyshire Anti Cuts campaigners were at Derbyshire County Council headquarters, County Hall, Matlock yesterday June 17th 2014 supporting disabled people from Derbyshire Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC).

 

Their spokesman, the brilliant Gary Matthews,  other disabled people and allies challenged council leader Cllr Anne Western, Cllr Andy Botham and Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Cllr Clare Neill on the steps leading in to County Hall yesterday and then submitted questions in the Cabinet meeting itself raising the alarm that if these cuts and charges were voted through today, then councillors would in effect be complicit in the victimisation and persecution of Derbyshire’s disabled people and their families.

 

Good luck to Derbyshire DPAC in sorting out a legal challenge to this victimisation and persecution.

 

We say SHAME on Labour controlled Derbyshire County Council for being complicit accomplices to the Con Dem robbery of Derbyshire people’s rightful money and to the victimisation and persecution of disabled people and those with long term health issues.

 

Gary Matthews from DPAC handed out leaflets with the following text on to all councillors and people who attended the protest and the council meeting:

 

“Think before you vote!”

 

The report to the Derbyshire County Council Cabinet being voted on this morning is a very depressing document. We believe that the three recommendations are an attack on disabled people across Derbyshire.

 

Increasing the eligibility threshold for those who need support will impact seriously on the daily lives of disabled people.

 

We are talking about not just cuts, but life and death issues.

The report admits that there will be more accidents at home and people will no longer be safe if their care is cut.It also predicts worsening personal health for those deprived of care in the future.

 

The proposals on co-funding (paying for care) and on charging £5 for transport trips will drive hundreds of disabled people into poverty.

30% of disabled people already live in poverty and this will just add to it.

The report does not have a proper equality impact report and the consultation process was highly defective.

 

We attended a two hour meeting yesterday (June 16th 2014) with Cllr Clare Neill where we put our concerns.

We told her in straight terms what the effects on our disabled community would be.

We asked her to advise the Labour cabinet to delay these cuts for 12 months and lead a campaign against the Coalition cuts together with trade unions and disabled peoples groups.

 

We are fed up with hearing the Labour mantra and excuse that there is no alternative.

 

We have now given the Labour cabinet a clear alternative.If they ignore this, they will only have themselves to blame.

Will they act as agents to Eric Pickles and force through these cuts, or will they stand alongside disabled people and oppose all cuts.

 

“We believe that cuts in welfare benefits and in essential adult care services amount to nothing more than crimes against humanity”.

 

Gary Matthews

Email: matthews354@btinternet.com

 

Where injustice becomes the law, resistance becomes necessary.

 

An injustice to one is an injustice to all.

 

They say cut back, we say FIGHT BACK

 

Liz Potter on behalf of Derbyshire Anti Cuts Campaign in solidarity with Derbyshire Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC).

 

http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/Disabled-campaigners-stage-protest-cuts-adult/story-21248190-detail/story.html

 

 

Jun 172014
 

DWP ministers said only 9% of ESA decisions were wrong.  Our research reveals the DWP have been quoting from figures which state 151,800 appeals have succeeded.  Our evidence shows the true figure to be at least 567,634 – casting serious doubt over 43% of 1,302,200 ‘fit for work’ decisions. 
 

ilegal Press Release – 16th June 2013


DWP’s internal figures reveal a much higher number of successful ESA appeals than have been made publicly available.

article-2520639-19FD00E400000578-512_634x330

DWP reply on 13 June 2014 to a Freedom of Information Act request made as part of an investigation in to DWP figures relating to the controversial Work Capability Assessment by ilegal.org.uk has revealed that of 1,287,323 ESA appeals, at least 567,634 claimants have had the original DWP decision overturned in their favour.

Government’s key defence of the assessments has been that around 9% of all decisions are incorrect.  The most controversial of which are those where a claimant is found fit for work.  DWP figures (for new claims) show that betweenOctober 2008 and September 2013 a total of 1,306,200 fit for work decisions have been made.

It is with considerable disappointment noted that the DWP’s latest publicly available statistics confirm that only 151,800 successful appeals have been recorded out of a total of 410,400 appeals (for new claimants only).  Our investigations reveal evidence of three times as many appeals being ‘internally recorded’ of which
567,634 have been successful.  The DWP have revealed to us figures which show nearly quarter of a million internal reconsiderations have led to decisions on new ESA claims being overturned in favour of the claimant; we have added these to figures from HMCTS tribunals which provides us with a much higher figure than the DWP seems to be prepared to admit to in their publicly available figures.

Our intensive research into the assessment of claimants for the DWP’s Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) has, following a freedom of information request to the DWP, provided one of the final pieces of the jigsaw needed to unpick the Department’s overly complicated statistics. We now have the final clue which has enabled us to identify that no less than 567,634 ESA claimants have in fact had their initial ESA refusals overturned in their favour.

It is a startling revelation that the government department has apparently been keeping a lid on a set of statistics that clearly shows between May 2010 and June 2013 no less than 820,356 decisions were looked at again by the DWP after claimants had been assessed by the controversial private contractors Atos Healthcare. These ‘internal’ statistics show that a very substantial 232,782 (28.5%) decisions were then subsequently overturned in the claimant’s favour.

What makes this all the worse is that these reconsideration statistics come on top of separate figures that show us that of those claimants who did not have the decisions overturned in their favour by the DWP, 817,102 went on to appeal to tribunals arranged by Her Majesties’ Courts & Tribunals Service where a further 332,607 were then overturned in the claimant’s favour by the tribunal.

These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right

These figures completely negate all of the DWP’s claims that it is getting the majority of its decisions right. Government ministers in conjunction with the DWP’s Press office have been telling us that a million claimants have been found fit for work whereas these figures show that in reality this is only a small part of the true story and that huge numbers have gone on to successfully appeal decisions which were wrong.

These new figures highlight the dubious practice of using the unchallenged assessment results, which only encourage media sensationalisation, with headlines such as those appearing in the Daily Express in July 2011 stating that ‘75% on sickness benefits were faking’. The same article goes on to say that out of ‘…2.6 million on the sick, 1.9 million could work’ before receiving an endorsement from the Prime Minister with an assurance that his government was “producing a much better system where we put people through their paces and say that if you can work, you should work”.

DWP and Ministers know the truth, they just aren’t telling anyone

These figures have been available to the DWP and its ministers since April 2010 from their ‘Decision Making & Appeals Case Recorder (DMACR) – ESA Management Information Statistics’. The DWP confirms this to be unpublished information which is for internal department information only, yet our research notes that the Right Hon Chris Grayling was using the same information in answer to Parliamentary questions on the 10th January 2012. 

We question then why the DWP has consistently ‘over promoted’ only the results of Work Capability Assessments relating to ‘initial’ decisions (including the opinions of Atos Healthcare in the absence of a statutory DWP decision) when it could instead have come clean and declared how hundreds of thousands of their incorrect decisions have since been overturned in favour of the person appealing.

These revelations seriously undermine the DWP’s contention that the initial Work Capability Assessment outcomes are a valid measure of the claimant’s ability to work. The DWP has consistently defended its assessments by giving an impression that only a relatively low number of decisions have been overturned whereas the reality is that well over half a million have resulted in a successful outcome for the claimant.

And this DOES NOT include the 712,000 people awaiting assessments BEFORE they can appeal

This news must have come as cause for grave concern when considered in the light of a recent revelation by DWP Minister Mike Penning which revealed that in addition to the figures we have highlighted, a further 712,000 Employment & Support Allowance claimants are awaiting assessments without which they cannot yet appeal.

This hugely unacceptable backlog of cases means people with disabling medical conditions are left hanging for months and months on a basic allowance way below what they are entitled to. This is leaving hundreds of thousands deprived of the support they require and means having to scrape by on money which is wholly insufficient to meet their needs due to disability and illness. It also means many claimants affected by severe and complex mental health conditions are facing prolonged torment as they wait month upon month for their decision to be overturned before they can even lodge an appeal.

Face up to reality: it doesn’t work. Scrap the WCA

These findings add considerably to the pleas of disabled groups all over the country to scrap the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) and to find a better way to assess their needs.

It is simply appalling that the DWP, along with Ministers and other government spokespeople appear to be feeding the media with misleading statistics that are unrepresentative of the real story and instead encourage headlines vilifying the disabled and the genuinely ill. These figures clearly show the DWP has evidence in their possession which shows how in far too many cases the decisions it is making are dead wrong and they know they’re dead wrong.

Editorial notes

Please contact the author of this article Nick Dilworth for verification of any of the figures quoted.  We welcome sharing our findings on social media and allow this information to be produced providing credit is given to the
i-legal website with links to the article produced.

We apologise for the slight delay in publishing this release.  This was due to a need to align the figures to ones recently produced by the DWP in their Work Capability Assessment figures released on the 12th June 2014 which relate to the most recent statistics up to September 2013.

A full supporting explanatory memorandum will be published very shortly.

The Reconsideration statistics relate to new ESA claimants only (excluding incapacity benefit to ESA conversion cases) whereas HMCTS figures refer to all ESA claimants.  It is our contention that had the DWP supplied all of the information we had requested, the figures for reconsiderations would have been considerably higher.

We acknowledge that not all appeals will be against fit for work findings for new claimants but given the DWP’s emphasis on this claimant cohort and the lack of information to the contrary we are of the contention that other appeals relating to claimants being moved from the Work Related Activity Group to Support Group are likely to be of a much lower volume and more likely to be contained within the cohort relating to incapacity benefit/ESA assessment.

We would like to express our thanks to Anita Bellows an i-legal member for her cooperation and for making the freedom of information request upon our guidance and our thanks extend to the DPAC organisation with whom Anita is also a member.

http://ilegal.org.uk/thread/8640/release-staggering-numbers-overturned-secrecy?page=1&scrollTo=21759

with thanks as ever to Nick  @Mylegalforum

Jun 132014
 

Watch and share this great song and video about the ILF campaign by Rockin Paddy

If the video player doesn’t appear on this page, you can view the video on youtube – here: The Battle of Whitehall Continues…..#SaveTheILF

Commentary on the Youtube page by Rockin Paddy

This is the story of the campaign to Save the Independent Living Fund, a fund which supports disabled people to live independent lives.

The video includes people I love, admire, work with, play with & I am friends with. It also includes people who I don’t know but who have joined the battle through the postcard campaign to change the governments decision to Save The ILF (or at least its principles). We won our High Court Case in November, taking on a big government by proving to be right, they were not listening or taking into consideration the impact of their decision which would have a negative impact on our lives. The government have gone against that judgement and so we must fight on with a new strength.

Historically we have not been the loudest of protesters, or great in number. We have protested and been successful and proud but hopefully this video suggests we are growing & getting louder, we are not going to give up and stay passive or quite.

We definitely need allies and supporters, as together we are strong and as proved we are right in fighting a just cause which is not at the detriment to any other human being. This issue is about us all.

We can win again for a fair, inclusive society in which disabled & non disabled people can learn, play, work and live together with dignity & equality…….A bit idealistic, I agree, but we do have to be passionate & rise for what we believe.

I/we? have smelt/felt these freedoms in small life experiences to know that they can exist work and be a reality.

This video has images used in the facebook “save The ILF Postcard Campaign” which can be found here, my thanks to Brian Hilton: https://www.facebook.com/ILFpostcard/…

So that’s one thing you could do, get the postcard via the facebook campaign page, take a piccy, post it on fb/send the card to your MP (if you are outside the UK your picture becomes just as important as it represents, support & solidarity).

The postcard is just one aspect of the battle. There is a legal battle, there are demos to join in the future debates and much more. The biggest thing we can all do is to share this message so the voice gets louder & becomes heard and ultimately acted upon…so as widely as you can share, tell, tweet, like it, poke it, knock it on. Even to one person (or more) who doesn’t know, but might be interested!

The video includes “the Battle of Whitehall” video and takes us upto June 2014.

I guess its good to let everyone know we fight on and it is very much a case of “to be continued…..”

Enjoy the video.

#SaveTheILF

Credits (also in film) DAN Action, Keith Armstrong, London, 1995

Threepenny Opera UK Tour, 2014
SaveTheILF Demo Caxton House, London, 2014
ILF Postcard Campaign many & growing, now!
The Battle of Whitehall Recorded in 2000
by The Big Red Bambino Band
Film Produced by Rockinpaddy.com

 Posted by at 22:39
Jun 132014
 

Get your MP to the House of Commons Debate!

Wednesday 18th June 11am

The future of the Independent Living Fund will be debated in the House of Commons for the first time this Wednesday 18th June from 11 – 11.30am.

We need to make sure as many MPs know it’s happening and will be there prepared to stand up for the ILF and the future of independent living support for disabled people.

The fight for the ILF is far from over.

Where will your MP be during the ILF Debate?

In March the Minister for Disabled People announced a new decision to permanently close the ILF in June 2015 following a ruling by the Court of Appeal in November 2013 which quashed the Government’s previous decision to close.
Last week ILF recipients launched a fresh legal challenge which you can read about here

Meanwhile #SaveILF supporters have been busy contacting their local councillors and MPs collecting sign ups to the campaign statement and spreading the word with the brilliant ILF postcard campaign: www.facebook.com/ILFpostcard

One supportive MP Nic Dakin MP for Scunthorpe has managed to get a debate on the future of the Independent Living Fund for this Wednesday 18th June 11 – 11.30am.

Whilst it is only half an hour, it is the first time the ILF and the fundamental question of the removal of disabled people’s right to independent living which its closure represents, has had a debate in Parliament.

This is an opportunity to make sure politicians know what the ILF is and why it is so important.

We need to take urgent action to write to our MPs, urging them to attend the debate, telling them why it matters and most importantly sharing your stories and experiences that show why we need not only to keep the ILF open but to reopen it to new applicants.

You can find your MPs email address and post address here.

Here is a briefing about the ILF you can download and send them as an attachment. ILF briefing 13 June 2014  (just click on the link)

If they can do it in Scotland, why not here?


 Posted by at 16:15
Jun 122014
 

Victory! Minister finally promises action over Norwich disabled assessment centre with no disabled access

Mark Harrison, CEO Equal Lives, with other protesters outside the Atos assessment centre at St Mary’s House. Picture: Denise Bradley

Mark Harrison, CEO Equal Lives, with other protesters outside the Atos assessment centre at St Mary’s House. Picture: Denise Bradley

Annabelle Dickson and Kim Briscoe, Political Editor Thursday, June 12, 2014 9:04 AM

A spectacular u-turn which will see a Norwich disability assessment centre with no disabled access finally moved after a two-and-a-half-year campaign has been hailed a victory for common sense.

Disabilities minister Mike Penning has finally admitted the situation is “wholly unacceptable”, and said he would be taking action to leave St Mary’s House in Duke Street as soon as possible.

It marks a complete turn in the uncompromising rhetoric with officials dismissing concerns, claiming that it was meeting its obligations.

The move should put an end to the long journeys being endured by people with debilitating illnesses and severe mobility problems to centres as far afield as Ipswich, King’s Lynn and even Nottingham.

Many people have been forced to travel by taxpayer-funded taxis, or in some cases told to find their own way on public transport, for assessments many miles away.

Minister of State for Disabled People Mike Penning said: “It is wholly unacceptable to be turning claimants away for assessments which is why I’m taking action to exit St Mary’s House as soon as we possibly can. I will be working with my fellow MPs in Norfolk to find an alternative centre that fits our requirements.”

Marion Fallon, who spoke out after she was sent a map and told to find her own way 45 miles to Ipswich despite being in constant pain and only able to walk with a stick, said that she had mixed feelings about the promise.

She said that she was angry that it had taken so long for ministers to listen, but also vindicated.

But she is likely to still have to go to Ipswich as her appointment is later this month.

Until a new building is found claimants with mobility problems will continue to be offered either a home visit or an appointment at an alternative assessment centre.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of Norfolk’s Equal Lives disability campaigning group, said: “It shows that disabled people have won a victory, but it’s just a victory for common sense and why has it taken two-and-a-half years?

“The bigger question that needs to addressed is the failing minister Iain Duncan Smith and the failing DWP.

“The Work Capability Assessments are cruel and degrading and ATOS are still assessing people as fit to work who are dying before they are able to get their benefits.”

Norwich MP Chloe Smith, who met the minister along with fellow Norwich MP Simon Wright and South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, said: “We explained that this was totally unacceptable for some of our most vulnerable constituents, and it needed to be addressed. It seemed perfectly obvious that sending people to Ipswich by taxi or other means is not sensible.”

Mr Bacon said: “Mike is very sensible and he took one look at it and realised that it was unacceptable and decided that it had to be fixed.”

Today campaigners welcomed the news, but questioned why it had taken the DWP so long to agree to find another venue.

The DWP is tied into a 20-year private finance initiative which is behind all the accommodation used for assessments around the country.

Mr Bacon said that he hoped it would not cost the department too much to find a new building.

But said: “Whoever allowed this to happen should not be involved in government anymore.”

Mr Wright also welcomed the news, adding: “The minister was extremely supportive. Having reviewed the evidence presented to him by the MPs he came to the conclusion that the current arragements were not fit for purpose.”

 

 

Now to on to scrapping the Work Capability Assessments and PIP!

 

Sack Iain Duncan Smith now!

 Posted by at 12:14
Jun 062014
 
Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights.

PCS need to ballot for non-cooperation on workfare and sanctions!

dpac-logo-3-amendment-1-smallblack-trianglebw logoMembers of PCS union work for the DWP and job centres so are involved in the day to day delivery of workfare and sanctions. Members have shown they oppose it by voting for national policy against workfare and sanctions. Now Disabled People Against Cuts, Black Triangle and Boycott Workfare are asking them to use their power to help put a stop to these punitive measures. 

Disabled People Against Cuts, Black Triangle and Boycott Workfare joint statement on PCS Union and non-cooperation:

1. We note that motion A81 that recently passed at the PCS conference makes reference to the PCS Union working with Disabled People Against Cuts and Black Triangle. (1)

2. We note that motions E340-E342 submitted by DWP branches also called for the PCS to work with Boycott Workfare, but that references to Boycott Workfare were dropped by the NEC from motion A81. (1)

3. Black Triangle and Disabled People Against Cuts wish to express their solidarity with Boycott Workfare who we believe have organised a broad based and successful campaign against workfare and sanctions.

4. We note that the legal advice received by the PCS in 2013 accepted that the tactic of non-cooperation could be used as part of a campaign of industrial action consisting of action short of a strike. (2)

5. We note that the PCS currently have a live mandate for industrial action and will be consulting members on 12th June about coordinated strike action. (3)

6. Disabled People Against Cuts, Black Triangle and Boycott Workfare therefore call on the PCS NEC to consult members on adopting a tactic of non-cooperation with workfare and sanctions.

References:

(1) http://www.pcs.org.uk/download.cfm?docid=3FBA9F5E-D8B1-4164-AA1B7CF5C50F3E33
(2) http://www.pcs.org.uk/download.cfm?docid=C20641E2-9DE4-4FFE-8E11590CCB7E0F51 (Motion A533)
(3) http://www.pcs.org.uk/en/news_and_events/pcs_comment/index.cfm/vote-yes-in-pcs-ballot-for-fair-pay

 Posted by at 22:48
Jun 062014
 

PRESS RELEASE – For immediate release

Judicial review launched of repeat DWP decision to close the Independent Living Fund

The Department of Work and Pensions is facing a judicial review challenge by a group of disabled people of the decision of Minister for Disabled People Mike Penning to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in June 2015, taken just weeks after the Court of Appeal quashed a previous, almost identical decision as being unlawful.  ILF provides vital support and funding to some 18,000 severely disabled people in the UK to enable them to live independent and fulfilling lives.  To be eligible people must already receive a substantial care package from local authority social services, but ILF funding provides a top-up for those with particularly high support needs. The ILF system was set up in 1988 in recognition of the fact that more severely disabled people are at high risk of social exclusion and face particular barriers to independent living and working, but their needs in this regard were not adequately addressed by council provision with its focus on meeting basic needs.   The claimants, represented by Deighton Pierce Glynn and Scott-Moncrieff & Associates, fear that loss of ILF support would threaten their right to live with dignity, and they may be forced into residential care or lose their ability to participate in work and everyday activities on an equal footing with other people.

The Court of Appeal had ruled in November 2013 that the previous closure decision had breached the public sector equality duty in the Equality Act because the Minister had not been given adequate information to be able to properly assess the practical effect of closure on the particular needs of ILF users and their ability to live independently.

However following the new closure decision announced on 6th March 2014, the DWP admitted that in considering the proposal once again it had not consulted with any organisations or individuals outside of Government. It had not gathered any additional information from local authorities or other sources about what level or type of support former ILF users would receive from social services once the ILF element was removed and how many people would be likely to go into residential care or lose their ability to work or study.

The new legal challenge is on the same basis as the first that once again the Minister had not discharged the public sector equality duty because he did not have adequate information to be able to properly understand what the impact of closure would be on the particular people affected. This made it impossible to properly weigh up the pros and cons of the proposal with the necessary focus on removing disadvantages for disabled people, meeting their needs, increasing participation in public life and advancing equality that the law requires in all decisions by Government.

The Claimants are asking the court to again quash the decision to close the Fund.

Notes

  1. The ILF is a body of the DWP but under the management of independent trustees. Since it was created in 1988 it has helped many thousands of disabled people to live independent lives. It has targeted support at the most severely disabled people in the UK who face the greatest barriers to independent living, and has also played a key role in overseeing social services provision from local authorities for this group of people, to ensure that the combined ILF/local authority support packages meet criteria of promoting independence and inclusion and avoid unnecessary escalation of costs from people being cut off from their communities .  In 2010 the Fund was closed to new applicants because the Government had reduced the amount of money it gave to the Fund.  It is now proposing that the Fund close completely in 2015, leaving users to rely on local authority adult care services.  This is at a time when the funding for local authorities is being dramatically reduced and many authorities are cutting services for disabled people.

 

  1. Further information, including individuals’ stories, on the campaign against the closure of ILF is available at the DPAC website: http://www.dpac.uk.net/.

 

 Posted by at 11:44
Jun 052014
 
·        Please come & support Rev Paul Nicholson on Wednesday 11th June in his Council Tax fight at Tottenham Magistrates’ Court, and save the dates for the other court challenges coming up.  See you there!
 
·        Please sign & share the online petition by Roshina Al-Faisal to get Tottenham police to withdraw the caution to her son Abdulkarriem, who has Down’s and a heart condition, and was kicked and pinned down by the police at his school.

 

 Rev Paul Nicolson
Support Rev Paul Nicolson in his
Council Tax challenge
1.30pm on Wednesday 11th June 2014
at Tottenham Magistrates Court, Lordship Lane, Tottenham, N17 6RT
Nearest station: Bruce Grove overground
 Legal challenge vs abolition of Council Tax Benefit
Thursday 19th June at 10am (time to be confirmed)
at the Supreme Court
Parliament Square London SW1P 3BD
by a Haringey resident – still going, from several borough challenges that started last year.
Important: this is at the Supreme Court opposite Westminster Abbey, corner of Victoria St – not the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand
Nearest tube Westminster or bus to Westminster Abbey.
 

Work Capability Assessment -- Judicial Review for Mental Health Claimants

Work Capability Assessment — Judicial Review for Mental Health Claimants — Substantial Hearing 7, 8 and 9th July 2014 at Royal Courts of Justice, London.  The Mental Health Resistance Network, supported by Disabled People Against Cuts, are holding a vigil at the Royal Courts of Justice onTuesday, 8th July 2014 at 12 noon to 2 pm to highlight the important issues around this case. More info from DPAC
·         WinVisible has been supporting Mental Health Resistance Network in this challenge.   Last year, the court ruled that mental health, autism and learning disability claimants are discriminated against in the Work Capability Assessment.
 
Withdraw the police caution given to my 19-year-old with Downs Syndrome. Petition by Roshina AL-Faisal London, United Kingdom
 
Withdraw the police caution given to my 19-year-old with Downs Syndrome.
Petition by
London, United Kingdom
 

Note: All text above copied from Winvisible Newsletter

 

 Posted by at 21:14
Jun 042014
 

DPAC is delighted to extend an open invitation to celebrate Independent Living Day with us on the 4th of July at the ‘Independent Living Tea Party ‘.

The party will begin at 2pm at the DWP, Caxton House in Tothill Street SW1. There will be fun & games, and entertainment; and of course, some civil disobedience.

We have come a long way since the demand for Independent Living was first made nearly 50 years ago. Then, as now, IL was our solution for how society supports disabled people to take our place as equals. For how society addresses inaccessible institutions, structures and process it created, which do more to disable people than their impairments ever could.

There are many strands of Independent Living, and all are under threat. Cuts to:

  • Support funding – such Social Care, the ILF & Disabled Students Allowance;
  • Education – in areas like the wholesale destruction of SEN Statements and the continued segregation of disabled children into ‘special’ schools;
  • Transport – the withdrawal of Taxi-cards, freedom passes and the halting of planned works to make infrastructure more accessible, amongst a host of other cuts combine to make disabled people second-class citizens in society.

But we have fought this fight before – and won. Our Disabled Peoples Organisations, legal gains and the policy victories we have won previously are testament to the power, know how and skills disabled people have to develop solutions to problems created by society.  We must celebrate these achievements and remind ourselves that each of these successes have had to be earned, no-one ever gave them to us without a struggle.

So celebrate with us, or alternatively create your own party. Get together with friends and supporters, and create the kind of vibrant, positive spaces we have always created. Bring the noise – bells, whistles, drums, pots & pans etc. Bring food to share. Bring your enthusiasm.

if you are planning your own party, here are some suggestions:

1) Choose your target –

focus on the important issues locally; support, education, transport etc – its up to you. Identify what you want to celebrate and who represents the biggest threat to that locally. Is it your local council or Uni? Is it a transport provider? Or is it someone else?

2) Tell everyone –

yes, EVERYONE. Media, campaign networks, activists, local people. DONT FORGET TO TELL DPAC so we can list and support your action!

3) Be heard, be seen –

make your event loud and proud. Bring music, choirs, drum, bells, whistles. Remind everyone out there that we won‘t be separated from society, we are society. We won ‘t go quietly.

4) We’re also holding a Twitter Party on the Hashtag
#IL4JULY so that people at the DWP and at other events round the country
can tweet in pictures of their events and we can all join in. Further
details to follow, watch this space.

The famous Boston teaparty led to a revolution against the British government let’s see where our teaparty leads…..

 

 Posted by at 18:56
Jun 042014
 

Disabled people’s experiences needed

Please send me short descriptions of disabled people’s experience on 3 employment related issues.   I can tidy the case studies up and make sure they are anonymous so you don’t need to spend too much time writing them up –  I just need proof of the points I’m making!  See details below:

·       If you have examples of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA) claimants where the loss of £40/50 will have a serious impact on the ability to pay for food and other essentials please let me know. There’s a consultation on the increase of ‘waiting days’ for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Employment Support Allowance (ESA).  Claimants will lose, on average, £40 or £50 respectively.  More information is at: http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/news/press-releases/23-05-14.pdf http://ssac.independent.gov.uk/consultations/

·       I also need examples of disabled people that have experienced difficulties either obtaining or maintaining Access to work e.g. cuts in their budget etc., changes to BSL interpreters conditions for the Access to work inquiry at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/access-to-work/

·       Lastly I would welcome recent examples (i.e. from beginning of Sept 2013) of difficulties caused by the WCA/ESA including issues around difficulties in paying bills due to benefit delays as above as well inaccurate assessments, lack of mental health champions or recording equipment or any other issues for the 5th and final review of the Work Capability assessment (to be announced shortly, see information below).   

 

Henrietta  Doyle

Policy Officer

Inclusion London

 

henrietta.doyle@inclusionlondon.co.uk

www.inclusionlondon.co.uk

Twitter: @inclusionlondon

 

 Posted by at 13:59
Jun 032014
 

 

Who 2 Vote 4 As part of DPAC’s Who 2 Vote 4 campaign Anita Bellows delves in to the history files, to examine who made the decision to move Incapacity Benefit Claimants onto ESA and the warnings that were made about that at the time.


Even before the full reassessment of Incapacity Benefits claimants was in full swing, academics predicted a disaster with 600,000 claimants forced off Incapacity Benefits, particularly for those living in regions of high unemployment.

A Guardian article refers to a study undertaken in 2011 by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research of Sheffield Hallam University (CRESR)  which showed that it was possible to anticipate the dire consequences of IB reassessments and of the ESA regime which relied on a tougher test, but which was already known at the time to be flawed: the Work Capability Assessment.

But the CRESR was not the first, and certainly not the only opponent to the IB migration, and to raise doubts about IB reassessment, the Work Capability Assessment, and the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) regime.

As early as May 2010, the Social Security Advisory Committee, the House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, and the House of Lords all separately warned first the Labour government and then the Coalition government of the potential negative impacts on disability benefit claimants if the IB reassessments went ahead, especially with a tougher test and a standard of assessment which was “not always good enough, especially for people with mental health and cognitive difficulties”.

Both governments decided to ignore these warnings and to go ahead, even before knowing the findings and recommendations of the first review of the WCA.

Background to the reassessment of  existing Incapacity Benefit claimants

Employment and Support Allowance did not initially affect existing claimants of incapacity benefits, but the Labour Government made it clear from the outset that existing claimants would be reassessed for ESA.

Budget 2008 [para 4.5] announced that all existing Incapacity Benefit claimants would be required to take the Work Capability Assessment from April 2013.

March 2010 regulations

Regulations laid before Parliament by the Labour Government on 29 March 2010 provided for the “migration” of the remaining incapacity benefits claimants customers to ESA between October 2010 and March 2014, provided they satisfied the Work Capability Assessment.

The draft regulations were subject to full scrutiny by the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), who published its report in March 2010 with the response of the government.

March 2010 Social Security Advisory Committee’s report

The Committee believed that the migration arrangements in the draft regulations could not be implemented without the risk of operational stress and adverse impacts on significant numbers of vulnerable people before adding: “In our view, the Department should not embark upon the proposed migration until the well-documented problems with current ESA processes and procedures (including those with the WCA) have been resolved, any changes to the Pathways programme have been implemented and bedded-in, and improvements have been made to the support available for JSA claimants with a health condition or disability”.

The Committee raised also several concerns:

  • Lack of a solid evidence base for the decision to migrate or the proposed migration arrangements.
  • Underestimation by DWP of the support required by this group of claimants, in terms of both their participation in a more active benefit regime and the support required to move them closer to the labour market.
  • ESA evaluation for new claimants is not planned to be completed until 2011, by which time the proposed migration arrangements will have commenced.

And the Committee recommended that the migration to ESA did not proceed to the current timetable but waits until:

  • a stronger evidence base on what works and whether ESA is achieving its aims is available
  • the new regime for claimants with a health condition or disability (as an outcome of the Pathways review) has bedded down
  • DWP’s review of the WCA is complete, recommendations have been considered and any necessary changes have been made
  • demand-side approaches to stimulating the labour market have begun to have a positive impact on local demand for labour, particularly in areas with a high concentration of IB claimants.

And in case the migration did proceed as planned the Committee made several recommendations, notably that the quality of the WCA should be improved, particularly for claimants with mental health problems and cognitive and learning difficulties, and that Incapacity benefits claimants currently exempt from the PCA should be automatically treated as meeting the conditions for the ESA Support Group.

March 2010 Government’s response

In its response in the same document, Point 141, the Labour Government rejected the Committee’s call to alter the timetable for migration, but took on board some of the Committee’s concerns and undertook to continue to engage with “stakeholders” as the migration proceeded, stating:

“The Government has carefully considered the Committee’s concerns in relation to the ESA transitional Regulations and their wider concerns about the migration programme. However, for the reasons outlined in this response it does not accept the Committee’s recommendation that migration should not continue to the current timetable. The Government considers the migration of existing incapacity benefits customers to be a key element of welfare reform and one that will greatly benefit customers at a time when support to get back to work is urgently needed. The Government does not believe it would be right or fair to delay this support for customers who have been without it for too long already”.

June 2010 House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee’s report

In June 2010, after the General election, the House of Lords Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee published a report which echoed the concerns voiced by the SSAC about whether there would be sufficient support for these groups of claimants, and the lack of evidence on how ESA was working for new claimants, notably that the Committee, from the limited evidence they have seen thought that a

“major project with a potential impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable in the community is being conducted in a rather ad hoc fashion. The second phase is being rolled out before the first has been evaluated and although better information will be sought on the outcomes, the Department’s intended course of action, and evidence to support it, all seem rather vague”

It voices also concerns about the capacity of only 20 Benefit centres to absorb and process the transition of 10,000 cases per week, the arrangements put into place by DWP for Job centres, as “many of the customers will have special needs”, and the quality of the Work Capability Assessment.

The Committee also asked DWP what percentage of those ESA claimants sent down the JSA route obtained work, and what happened to the 30% who moved off benefits, to which DWP replied that the Department did not hold the information centrally, but that it intended “to carry out a qualitative piece of in-depth research on unsuccessful ESA claimants who do not qualify for ESA, have their claim closed, or withdraw their claim”.

One report was published in 2011 [para 4.4.2] in which DWP acknowledged that it knew nothing about ESA claimants found fit for work, and not claiming JSA.

July 2010 House of Lords’s debate to motion

The House of Lords then debated a motion to take note of the Merits Committee’s report on 20 July 2010 which criticised the reassessment of existing IB claimants, the WCA and the ESA regime and which quoted Professor Gregg, the architect of the sanctions regime in the two most recent Welfare Reform Acts as saying: “To start moving people who may have been on incapacity benefit for years straight onto jobseeker’s allowance is ridiculous. Before wading into the stock, the system has to be right“.

To which Lord Freud answered by providing reassurance that everything was fine and under control, and that even this year in March (2010), “a DWP-led review of the work capability assessment found that generally it is accurately identifying individuals for the right support”.


The General Election is one year away and the choice is likely to be between the two main parties.

  • Both of them were alerted in 2010 to the risks people claiming incapacity benefits could be exposed to, if IB reassessments went ahead.
  • Both parties knew there was a real capacity gap in Job centres and Benefit centres to deal with the number estimated by DWP to be found fit for work.
  • Both parties were warned about the issues already plaguing the Work Capability Assessment.
  • Both parties chose to ignore these warnings and to proceed with a flawed reassessment process.

While the Conservative party, through Iain Duncan Smith, and the various Ministers for Disabled People has shown itself to be indifferent to the plight of people who need support because they cannot work, the Labour party should not be let off the hook.

Would Labour have done things differently? Maybe, but the fact is we don’t know, and while they were in power, they did not show any willingness to protect these groups of people from harm.

Before being trusted again, the Labour party has to acknowledge its errors of the past and make concrete proposals to put things right.

The ball is in their court.

 

 Posted by at 16:19
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