Sep 132014
 

DPAC has removed our most recent piece on Anthony Kletzander from our website due to a ‘cease and desist’ letter from solicitors representing Nua Healthcare threatening legal action against us for raising awareness of the case. DPAC have published pieces on Anthony and his situation since late 2013. We firmly believe that Anthony’s desire for independent living, instead of institutionalisation should be upheld, as per Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We also believe that we have a duty to raise public awareness on Anthony’s experiences.

We will continue to campaign and to support Anthony, his parents: Linda and Sigi and his chosen advocate Joe Whittaker in any way we can. Anthony’s parents Linda and Sigi kindly agreed to an interview from their home in Ireland. We are grateful for their time and honesty.

Interview
As you may know supportive web sites and grass root disability groups in the UK and Europe received a solicitors ‘cease and desist’ letter regarding talking about Anthony’s circumstances, we can not talk about that specifically, but as Anthony’s parents and his legal guardians-what are your thoughts on:
 
a) the suggestion of the protection Anthony’s ‘confidentially’ :what has Anthony said to you on this, what is it that he wants to say about his circumstances? And as his parents what is it you would like to say?

Anthony repeatedly asks us to get him out of Nua and that he wants independent living in his own home near to his family. We fully support Anthony and take our lead from Anthony. He wants us to do whatever is necessary to help him to get back to independent living

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b) We understand that Anthony’s chosen means of communication has been denied, can you tell us a bit about that?
Despite the fact that Nua were given Speech and Language reports from two Health Service Executive (HSE ) Senior Speech and Language Therapists, Speech and Language report from Central Remedial Clinic Speech Therapist and Marion Stanton communication expert in U.K no staff at Nua are trained up in his communication  Marion offered to come to Ireland (in March 2014) to train Nua staff, but Nua did not invite her over in fact Noel Dunne said on the phone that they would get their own experts.

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2.Anthony lived in his own flat with his own personal assistants for almost 3 years – why do you think it is proving so difficult for Anthony to exercise his right to independent living by living in a place of his own choosing now?
 

Having had independent living from 2010-2012 with Cheshire Ireland where Cheshire took a back seat, we recruited Anthony’s staff with Anthony, put together a schedule which Anthony helped in planning and we negotiated with Dublin City University (DCU) and Anthony attended DCU lectures which is something he always wanted to do. In 2013 Anthony service was given over to Áiseanna Tacaíochta Network (ATN) by HSE with no meaningful negotiations with Anthony or us, no explanation was given. Martin Naughton the Director of ATN carried out the negotiations with Geraldine Murphy HSE Disability Manager. Martin then imposed his staff on Anthony, none of which believed in Anthony’s communication and Anthony’s whole quality of life suffered a great deal under the service of ATN. Martin tried to dictate visiting hours for Anthony, restricted his movement. Basically we had to go to Anthony’s home every evening to take Anthony out as he was effectively under virtual house arrest. Martin also applied to the Dept of Social Protection to have Anthony’s personal disability allowance payment paid into the ATN company. Following Martin’s email we contacted the department objecting and it took about a year to sort out the stoppage of Anthony’s payment due to ATN’s actions.

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3.What does Anthony say to people fighting the campaign to get him independent living?

Anthony continues to ask us to keep the campaign going. He also appeals to us to ask Nua to stop the forced medication on him. Anthony has know Joe (Whittaker) for about 11 years and always asks us to ask Joe to continue the campaign for him.  We always reassure Anthony that Joe and we his parents are continually campaigning and won’t stop until Anthony is released to Independent living. We need to keep repeating this to Anthony to try to help him to survive his time with the Nua institution

4 What efforts have HSE made to discuss Anthony’s wishes for independent living with you and Anthony?
 
Possibilities Plus offered HSE their service to provide Independent Living. Geraldine Murphy has told them that as far as she is concerned the Nua arrangement is permanent.  We continue to write to Sheila Marshall the other Disability Manager involved.

5.Who do you recognise outside the family as closest to Anthony and who has Anthony chosen as an advocate?
Anthony chose Joe Whittaker as his advocate and we keep Anthony informed about the campaign. We Anthony’s parents feel encouraged and very appreciative of Joe’s on going support. We are all grateful that many more people know what is going on and we really appreciate all the support that Anthony is being given by growing numbers of people.

6.Prior to Anthony being institutionalised did Anthony have a history of hospitalisation

No, prior to ATN taking over the management of Anthony service, Anthony was on a strict gluten and dairy free diet. He was not given ANY medication but took natural supplements. When ATN took over Anthony’s service ATN stopped Anthony’s special diet against the advice of the family doctor claiming that they found him to be “often hungry”. This caused Anthony pain and subsequently contributed to his virtual “house arrest”.

7.When did forced medication start for Anthony

Anthony was medication free when he entered Redwood ( a prior institution). However three days after he entered Redwood we got a phone call confirming that Anthony’s crucial special gluten and dairy free diet was not being adhered to by Redwood and that they were giving him medication.

8.Did Anthony have a history of being hospitalised prior to being institutionalised

No. Despite the fact that we gave Redwood Anthony’s GP letter and met with Management when we were told that Anthony was been given medication and that his diet was not adhered to. Anthony was hospitalised by emergency ambulance with seizures for the first time in his life. Tests showed no epilepsy.

9.Did Nua continue with the drugs regime

When Anthony started in Nua he was not drugged according to our information. However in March 2014 Anthony was admitted to hospital by emergency ambulance. Since Anthony started in Nua he has been admitted twice to hospital by emergency ambulance and continues to be medicated.

10.Did Nua give you the list of Anthony’s medication

No despite the fact that we repeatedly asked Nua for the list of Anthony’s medication they refused to give it to us. We finally got the list of medication when our solicitor requested the medication list from HSE when Sheila Marshall, Disability Manager issued the medication to our solicitor so we then had access to this crucial information.

11.How does Anthony spend his weekdays

When Anthony started at Nua we attended a conference explained the significance of training for staff of Anthony’s communication. We also told everyone who attended the meeting from HSE and Nua that Anthony hates farms.  He attends the Nua farm daily where we recently witnessed Anthony shovelling manure into a wheelbarrow in a highly distressed state and being told “good boy keep going”. Anthony is a 26 year old man not a “boy”.

photo anthony

12.How did Anthony appear on your recent visit to him on the Nua farm

When we drove into the car park we could hear Anthony’s anguished sounds and rushed to find him. We were shocked to see him shovelling manure into a heaped wheelbarrow. Anthony’s anguished sounds increased significantly whilst bringing the heaped wheelbarrow down the very steep hill to the lower Nua gardens. We emailed Nua voicing our concerns but received a registered letter from Nua yesterday informing us that Anthony has been returned to the farm as of 8 September 2014 so we continue to worry significantly about Anthony’s health and safety in Nua.

13. What would you say to parents/people in a similar situation to that of Anthony?

We would say never give up. Everyone is entitled to be listened to, no one’s basic human rights should be abused. We would encourage people to speak up if they can.

14.What would you and Anthony say to the people supporting Anthony?
Anthony is continually thanking people for their support which he needs to stay strong. Anthony is particularly grateful to his and our friend Joe Whittaker

Video of Anthony typing thank you to supporters

 

If you can help please contact Anthony’s chosen advocate Joe: whittakerjoe5@gmail.com

Abbreviations

ATN Áiseanna Tacaíochta Network
DCU Dublin City University
DPAC Disabled People against Cuts
HSE Health Service Executive: responsible for the provision of healthcare providing health and personal social services for everyone living in Ireland, with public funds.

 

Sep 102014
 

Reblogged from Fuel Poverty Action Group

After a lovely warm summer colder weather is on the way. As the weather gets colder we know many people’s thoughts will turn to their energy bills and to thinking about ways to stay warm over the winter. But we don’t have to struggle alone!

Fuel Poverty Action are ready with events and workshops and have resources that will support you or group to keep warm, fight the Big Six and to demand a energy system that works for all of us.

Invite us along to your meeting -we can speak about fuel poverty, just listen to you or we can do:

‘Energy Rights’ workshops. Think you’re getting ripped off? Being pushed onto an unwanted prepayment meter? Got debt you can’t pay? Not sure what your landlords are allowed to do regarding energy bills? Want to learn what your rights are when dealing with energy companies and what you’re entitled to?Invite us to put on our energy rights workshop- learn how to get the most, and pay the least, out of the current energy system and get together to think about ways we can help to protect each other from the brutality of the energy companies. We can do it in an hour, or less or more, and it can slot into your usual meeting or we can put on a special workshop. Interested? Email: fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com and/or a…
‘Keep Warm Cafe’ Want to find out ways to save money on your bills, how to insulate your home very cheaply or avoid a prepayment meter? Just want to chat about what’s wrong with the energy system over a cup of tea in a warm space? Invite us to the venue you use, give us a slot in your meeting or we can put on a special ‘Keep Warm Cafe’ at a time convenient to you. We can talk about ways to keep warm, ways to fight off the energy companies and we can discuss ideas about what we want to do about the unfair energy system. We’ll bring biscuits!  Interested? Email: fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com
Also,
Come to the launch of our Energy Bill of Rights at the House of Commons on 27th October, 5pm! The government tells us that the energy system is broken and the best we can hope for is a few pounds off our rip-off bills but we think there needs to be an energy revolution where we all have access to affordable, sustainable energy that isn’t supplied by aggressive money-hungry companies. We’ve put together an Energy Bill of Rights that we hope will encourage all of us to stand up to the energy companies, from energy bill debt to the Big Six profiteers destroying our climate. We’re launching it at the House of Commons and we want you to be there. Interested?Email: fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com
Please share our facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/361093010682602/?fref=ts
Sign up to and endorse our Energy Bill of Rights! We need individuals, groups and organisations to tell us why they think the Energy Bill of Rights is needed. Send us a couple of sentences about why you think the Bill is needed and why it’s relevant to you and your group. Email us: fuelpovertyaction@gmail.com 
And check out our free online guide ‘In trouble with your energy company? A mini-guide to your rights’ , please print and share! http://www.fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/home-alternative/info-advice/

We’ll be printing copies in the coming month so if you would like a few (or more!) please do let us know!

We declared our Energy Bill of Rights in May 2014. Last winter 10,000 people died from fuel poverty whilst energy companies made billions of pounds off of expensive and dirty energy.
We want groups to sign up to and endorse these rights! Get in touch if you want to.

Energy Bill of Rights Poster

 Posted by at 22:42
Sep 102014
 

Posted on September 10, 2014 by johnny void

Poundland have seen dozens of protests outside their stores over their use of unpaid workers.

Poundland have seen dozens of protests outside their stores over their use of unpaid workers.

In a bizarre move, several companies known to use unpaid staff on workfare schemes have teamed up to write a letter to The Guardian singing the praises of the disastrous Work Programe.
The list of employers – which includes Homebase who are known to have used workfare is the past, and Poundland, who were at the heart of the successful legal challenge against workfare – say that the government’s support for schemes like the Work Programme ‘must continue’.  Otherwise they might have to start actually paying their staff instead of exploiting unemployed people coerced into unpaid work by sanction-happy Jobcentre busy-bodies.
It is not known whether all the companies on the list, which include Ocado and Gap, are involved in unpaid work, although it is difficult to see why they have signed otherwise.  In fact it seems a strange thing for these businesses to be bothered to do at all.
The last signatory on the list may reveal one explanation for how this strange initiative came about.  Kirsty McHugh is the Chief Executive of the Employment Related Services Assocation, or ERSA for short.  This is the trade body established to lie on behalf of the welfare-to-work parasites like A4e and G4S who run the Work Programme.  Just last week they published a breath-takingly dishonest report making wild claims that no-one believed about how much money the Work Programme is saving the country.  It seems likely that this letter was co-ordinated by ERSA as part of a shabby PR campaign designed to convince the DWP to keep giving welfare-to-work firms billions of pounds of our money.
Labour have hinted that they might bring in local councils to run forced work schemes.  The Lib Dems are caling for a policy change and may yet hold the balance of power again come the next election.  More importantly, no-one know better than the welfare-to-work sector that the latest ‘Help to Work’ scheme is set to be a disaster and that they will be the ones that get the blame when it all goes wrong.  The future does not look so assured for ERSA and their welfare-to-work cronies who  have made hundreds of millions out of bullying and exploiting unemployed people.  They will fight as dirty if they have to keep Brtain’s biggest benefit scam alive.

Expect more bollocks like this.
join the Week of Action Against Workfare beginning on October 4th.  Please spread the word.
This blog has no sources of funding so here’s a quick reminder that you can help ensure it continues by making a donation.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

with thanks from DPAC for allowing us to reblog

Sep 092014
 

From Boycott Workfare Boycott WorkFare, If you Exploit Us, We Will Shut You Down

Forcing people to work for free through the threat of removing people’s benefits (sanctions) is unfair, unjust and wrong. In the week of action, tell the companies and charities who are profiting from this exploitative regime what you think of their involvement! Email, Tweet, use Facebook, phone them, protest, organise a flashmob: for a week of piling the pressure on workfare exploiters.

We know these tactics work! Just look at how quickly Byteback IT had to pull out when you told them what you thought after George Osborne made the mistake of visiting them. This is just one of the latest in a whole list of businesses and charities that have also pulled out of workfare following our pressure.

The latest workfare scheme, “Community Work Placements” (CWP), forces people to work for nothing for up to six months – twice the length of the maximum community service sentence for committing a crime. But there is growing resistance from the voluntary sector which the scheme needs to work: over 400 charities have signed up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary and 22 councils have pledged to boycott workfare. They know that workfare does not help people find jobs and being
unemployed is not a crime.

Resistance is paying off: the launch of the CWP scheme was massively delayed. Instead of using ‘big name’ national charities, the DWP has had to resort to small local charities and businesses to provide these Workfare placements. So local actions are all the more important! See Boycott Workfare’s list of Workfare users to find one near you.

All this means it is getting harder and harder for the government to find new employers willing to risk taking on Workfare placements. In fact the government is desperately doing all it can to avoid revealing the organisations using Workfare out of fear the schemes will collapse!

People pressure has ended Workfare in the place where it all started – New York – now let’s end it here!

Workfare undermines real paid jobs and wages; results in sanctions for thousands; does nothing to improve the chances of finding a job; and exploits those forced to take up these placements. Our actions can stop companies, charities and councils from exploiting this forced unpaid work. Wherever you are, however you can contribute, take action on 4-12 October.

Whatever you’re planning – let us know and we’ll help spread the word!

Join our Facebook event here which we will update with links to all the local actions.


Reblogged from JohnnyVoid Blog with thanks

 Posted by at 14:10
Sep 082014
 

Response
(1) The Work Capability Assessment is a much more rigid test & cannot be compared with former Personal Capability Assessments.  It is inconceivable that a conclusion can be reached that the more rigid Work Capability Assessment has become easier to negotiate than the previous Personal Capability Assessment which had a lower threshold.
It is not accepted that there has been any form of significant improvement in the claims process surrounding the Work Capability Assessment.
Never before has one benefit assessment process attracted so much adverse publicity and negativity as the Work Capability Assessment.
It stands to reason that if the test is set as high bar as the Work Capability Assessment is, it logically follows that qualifying for entitlement will be far more difficult than qualifying for the previous Incapacity Benefit via the Personal Capability Assessment process used to determine eligibility for Incapacity Benefit & Income Support on the grounds of incapacity for work.
It is not accepted that any accurate comparison with Incapacity Benefit can be drawn without full regard to analysing similar cohort factors such as the ages, ICD coding, duration of claim, gender, and regions of the claimants being taken in to consideration.

(2) No comparisons can be drawn between Incapacity Benefit & Employment & Support Allowance without a proper scrutiny of a more complete set of statistics
Before drawing any analysis between Incapacity Benefit and ESA, the numbers of claimants used in the comparison including on and off flows would need to be carefully scrutinised. This is especially important where the flow rate is mixed with ib/ESA migration cases and where it can no longer be safely concluded that new ESA claimants are not in fact older claimants who have since submitted a fresh claim.
Between October 2008 and September 2013 the ESA regime has involved a total departmental case-load (across all cohorts) of 6,440,000 cases involving 4,396,400 Work Capability Assessments of which 1,198,700 were a repeat.  A case load of this magnitude requires considerable analysis across all cohorts before any accurate comparisons can be drawn between the older incapacity benefits and ESA.  The former was far less complex in cohort terms.
Between October 2008 and September 2013, 1,407,400 claimants have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group (453,300 at repeat assessment) and 1,437,300 in the Support Group (479,800 at repeat assessment).  These figures are considerably higher than those relating to the new ESA claim group in which 484,900 have been placed in the Work Related Activity Group and 445,400 have been placed in the Support Group. Far more information is required as to not only the numbers allocated to the groups but also what happens to the claimants after they have been assessed in to a placement.

(3) The DWP needs to produce statistics on appeals & reconsiderations before any reliance be can be placed on the Work Capability Assessment statistics.  Well over a million claimants have disputed the findings of Work Capability Assessments and the full dispute outcomes are as yet still unknown.
From April 2009 to December 2013, HMCTS figures confirm 1,054,541 ESA appeals have been lodged with Tribunals of which an average of 40 + % of those already heard have been overturned in the claimant’s favour.  These figures are far in excess of any related to the previous Incapacity Benefit and are an obvious indicator of significant numbers of claimants having a lack of confidence in the decision reached at initial assessment.
The DWP’s WCA statistics are inherently unreliable and cannot be read in the context of isolated quotations from quarterly releases without proper reference being made to the more specific and overall totals available.  The overall (cumulative) ‘qualifying’ rates for claimants are (up to September 2013):
-New ESA claimants 47%
-New ESA claimants at repeat assessment 78%
-IB/ESA migrated claimants 80%

Whilst it may be helpful to look at quarterly shifts in the figures, it is the overall cumulative rate which needs to change before it can be safely concluded that any material change has taken place.

The DWP’s WCA statistics are rendered inaccurate by way of the DWP’s inherently slow update of information from the inputting of the number of formal appeals lodged with HMCTS together with a total lack of explanation as to the number of initial decisions overturned informally following DWP reconsideration. This is particularly important in respect of monitoring the effects of mandatory reconsideration since October 2013.

(4) Employment & Support Allowance is an entirely different regime to that of Incapacity Benefit making any comparison unreliable.  Delays with the DWP & Atos Healthcare have resulted in a chronic backlog of 750,000 cases awaiting assessments from which no conclusions can be drawn.  The WCA statistics are made additionally complex by the influx of a case load of 1,354,800 claimants assessed from the Incapacity Benefit migration programme.
The claims process involving ESA is entirely different to that of Incapacity Benefit.  ESA involves the claimant initially being subjected to what should be a 13 week assessment phase before the Work Capability Assessment decision is decided upon by the DWP.  It is only once the assessment phase has been completed that a proper decision can be made as to whether the claimant can move in to the main WRAG/Support Group phases of ESA entitlement.  Chronic delays have built up to a point where the backlog awaiting assessment had recently reached over 750,000 claimants.  It is a clear sign that the DWP was earlier ‘over reassessing’ claimants leading to a substantial lack of residual data on outcomes and the possibility that the Department is now making less rigid placement decisions in order to get though its chronically stretched backlog.
Claimants who have undergone ib to ESA migration do not in any event claim ESA, their claim is merely converted (providing they qualify at the point of WCA conversion) and thus no comparison can be drawn between this cohort and those making a new ESA claim from scratch.

(5) Statistical manipulation
Between October 2008 and September 2013, the Work Capability Assessment statistics record that 1,551,500 claimants have been found fit for work and 1,500,900 claimants have ended their claims without completing their Work Capability Assessment. In total the overall number of claimants who seemingly should have exited Employment & Support Allowance is therefore in excess of 3 million claimants. However the DWP off flow figures for the period October 2008 to August 2013 show the numbers exiting from Employment & Support Allowance to be 2,288,980.

The number of claimants leaving Employment & Support Allowance who closed their claims is a fixed statistic, whereas the number found fit for work is reversible if the claimant appeals or requests a reconsideration.
It is hard to understand how an apparent ‘exodus’ of some 3 million plus Employment & Support Allowance claimants as shown in the assessment statistics is not matched by statistics showing a rise in the numbers claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance.
In addition to the exodus related to assessment, there are also claimants who will have died, transferred to other benefits or ended their claim through time limiting imposed upon contributory claimants in the Work Related Activity Group who cease claiming where there are no grounds upon which to continue claiming income based Employment & Support Allowance.
DWP figures, related to on-flows, show that of October 2008 to August 2013, 636,410 Employment & Support Allowance claimants made a second or more claim for Employment & Support Allowance. This will add substantially to the number of on flows and may therefore give a distorted perception over more claimants claiming as well as ‘clouding’ the influx of what may appear to be new Employment & Support Allowance claimants who are in fact previous claimants who have simply made another claim.

(6) Mistrust
Media articles including those relating to the deaths of ESA claimants such as Graham Shawcross (63), Mark Wood (44), Neil Groves (46), Lee Robinson (39), Elenore Tatton (39), Linda Wootton (49), Brian McCardle (57), Karen Sherlock (44), Trevor Drakard (50), David Groves (56) and others have created a massive mistrust in the Work Capability Assessment as a valid measure of a claimant’s ability to work.  The DWP has failed to produce any up to date statistics upon which any reliable conclusions can be drawn as to the number of deaths & whether they can be ruled out as being directly or indirectly related to the Work Capability Assessment process.
The Work Capability Assessment remains condemned by disability groups, the BMA, National Charities, senior judges and Parliamentary Select Committees. The process has been identified as unfit for purpose and of such toxicity that major re-work is required. There clearly remains widespread concern that the WCA has not improved, customers have no confidence in it in, employers are clearly not convinced by it as an accurate measure of fitness to work as evidenced by the appalling Work Programme Job Outcomes valid to March 2014:
In the New ESA claimant group, out of 484,900 in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’, just 10,760 ended up with a Job Outcome (2.2%)
In the Incapacity Benefit to ESA conversion group, out of 469,200 claimants placed in the ‘Work Related Activity Group’ just 980 ended up with a job outcome (0.2%)
In the Incapacity Benefit to ESA conversion group, out of 249,300 claimants found ‘fit for work’ just 3,160 (1.4%) ended up with a job outcome.   Whilst this appalling result is shocking in itself, it should be remembered that the DWP’s figures only point to people on JSA who have been on incapacity benefits.  These figures may therefore relate to claimants who have ended their older incapacity claims and taken up a JSA claim voluntarily without being tested for ESA.
In the overall ‘voluntary participation group’ where there is no mandatory requirement to take part (unless a claimant has agreed to participate) out of 957,500 claimants placed in the Support Group (from both new ESA and incapacity to ESA claim groups) 3,350 claimants (0.4%) ended up with a job via the Work Programme. This group does better than the mandatory groups in incapacity to ESA conversion cases.

(7) Summary
It is unsafe to draw any conclusion that it is any easier for a claimant to make a claim for Employment & Support Allowance than it was for previous range of incapacity benefits. It is not possible to make a valid comparison on the basis of comparing numbers/success. A full explanation as to how claimants made their claims and how they were assessed is required before an accurate comparison can be made.  There is simply not enough information currently available to conclude that the Harrington reviews have led to any identifiable improvement.
A rise in the numbers being placed within the Support Group and Work Related Activity Groups may be more related to the greater number of claimants involved, the appeal/reconsideration results beginning to filter through after data lag, more claimants re-applying after being turned down, less capacity within the Work Programme to handle the larger numbers involved and a reduction in the number of repeat & ib/ESA migration assessments following the announcement that Atos Healthcare were withdrawing from the contract to conduct assessments for the DWP.
For these reasons any claim that it is easier to make a claim for Employment & Support Allowance than it was for Incapacity Benefit is strongly refuted.
By Nick Dilworth.
For and on behalf of New Approach.
New Approach are committed to working with other individuals & groups, please add your signature to this statement by emailing newapproach_uk@outlook.com or in comments.

follow new Approach on twitter @newapproach_uk

website: www.http://newapproachuk.org/

Sep 082014
 

Tory welfare reform is in crisis. Last week 70 Conservative MPs ignored a three line whip and stayed away from Westminster for the vote on Andrew George’s bedroom tax bill. Protests have beaten back government attacks on benefits but we need to keep fighting to see off the hated bedroom tax once and for all and to stand up against sanctions, which remain a vicious plank in the government’s punitive policies, whose use is rocketing and which are still supported by Labour in Parliament.

Join protests happening in the areas below or hold your own. Send pictures and updates to benefitjustice@gmail.com and/or mail@dpac.uk.net.

 

Barnet

9.00am: Jobcentre Granta House 1 Western Rd London N22 6UH. Go to Barnet Housing Action Group on facebook for more information.

 

Birmingham

12 noon: Broad Street Job Centre, Centennial House,100 Broad St, B15 1AU.

1.15pm: Centenary Square, Broad Street.

Sandk123456@aol.com

 

Huddersfield

12 noon: Upper Head Row, Huddersfield, HD1 2JL. (near main entrance to bus station) juneholmes@btopenworld.com

 

Leeds

12 – 2pm: Street meeting on benefits and sanctions: Briggate, LS1 6JX (near the Body Shop). ellenrobottom@hotmail.com

 

London

11am Old Palace Yard Westminster SW1P 3JY
and 1pm DWP HQ Tothill St SW1
(Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign will be meeting 10.30am outside Metropolitan Tabernacle opposite Elephant and Castle tube station to go up to Parliament)
Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Gig: Starring: THE WICKED VENETIANS + PARVA HINTON + SEBASTIAN MELMOTH + MYLAS: New Cross Inn, 323 New Cross Road London SE14 6AS: http://newcrossinn.com/?p=1&m=09&y=2014

Milton Keynes

12 noon – 1pm outside Milton Keynes Jobcentre Plus, Midsummer Blvd, MK9 3BN. E.kate.hunter@googlemail.com

 

FRIDAY 12th SEPTEMBER

 

Brighton

11am: Brighton station forecourt: brightonbenefitscampaign@gmail.com
Witney

Paupers Picnic outside David Cameron’s Witney Conservatives event at Witney Lakes with tax-dodging, expenses-grabbing MP Nadim Zahawi. Coaches leave Oxford at 5.30pm. For more info contact: mail:dpac.uk.net

Sep 062014
 

SaveILF - Cos we're not taking no for an answer

BLOG of an ILF user by Anne Pridmore

22ndAugust 2014
Awoken by Brody (one of my cocker spaniels puppies) kissing my face swiftly followed by Eben and Suzie Brodys mother. Thought I better get up and greet the day so pressed the buzzer for my PA had a quick wee then waited for my first cuppa in bed, don’t get up too early these days.
Had breakfast (in bed) and decided to have strip wash rather than a shower. Asked PA to check for pressure sores as I can easily get them can result in stay in hospital. P A assisted me to get dressed and went into bathroom for teeth hygiene all facilitated by PA. Had BIG mug of coffee and felt ready for day.

Went with PA to get vegetables for dinner and took Eben with me. Had long conversation with my choirmaster’s husband about our new season. Without ILF I would not be able follow my love of singing. Arrived home and asked PA to unlock office and fire up computer. Answered some emails then had lunch prepared by PA. Made sure my fluid levels were up as had nasty scare last week because I failed to drink enough I couldn’t go for nine hours. It is crucial to drink on the hour failure to do this will damage my kidneys. This of course does result in many trips to the toilet facilitated by PA and also the odd accident which means I have to have another shower and change of clothes. In the bad old days before ILF I remember having to dry my clothes (I had on) with a hair dryer. I also was forced into having a hysterectomy because I had very heavy periods and could not keep clean because of having only “pop ins” a few times a day. My ex husband was infertile and we were refused AID or adoption. I was still young enough to have children and this has always been a sadness. Had lunch mushrooms on toast prepared by my PA.
Need to stop now as am going to exercise three dogs up the recreation ground with my PA who will assist me and pick up the pooh!
Had pork roast cooked by PA.
Had bad night owing to pain needed turning six times. Failure to do this results in pressure sore with can lead to skin graft.

23rd August 2014
Took dogs with PA walk on canal – got wet which necessitated PA changing me – find this tiring. Decided to have a shower and hair wash etc. Remember the days when I had to rely on bath nurse once a week my day was Monday and of course every Bank Holiday falls on a Monday so that meant waiting three weeks.
In the evening I had dinner but as it was freezing decided to go to bed at 8.00 pm and play bridge on my ipad. No more not knowing when the community nurse would come at any time to suit her. This is 28 years ago and I was much younger then, even though I was the youngest on her list she often came at 7.00 pm. I am sure it was more about “power and control” rather than putting me to bed at a reasonable time. Had cup of tea and chat with PA had drugs (prescription) and settled down to good book. Another very disturbed night – having to wake my PA five times to reposition me.

25th August collect my friend from her home to go to the cinema, My PA drives for me and I can recall the days before ILF when I was imprisoned in my own home. I had absolutely no social life at all. When we got home me and my PA took my two dogs to the local recreation park. This was only possible because my PA was able to pick up the dog pooh.

26th August had to get up early to be ready for my student who I am teaching to update our website. The beauty of having ILF to fund PAs is that if I need to get up early or fancy a lie in I am able to do this. Before the ILF I was at the mercy of the home help service and had no choice or control in my life. Going back to the mid 80s when I was entirely dependent on statuary services I was controlled by whoever determined the home carers hours. I remember raging about the fact that it was impossible to visit friends or have relationships because I never knew the time people would turn up. There was a particular occasion when I met a man and invited home to stay overnight with me. I rang the social services department to ask them to cancel my visit. But they told me that was impossible so I locked the back door and stuck a notice on the door which read “NO HELP NEEDED MAN IN HOUSE”. During the afternoon I was visited by the person who operates the volunteer centre. She came to give me feedback on the IT support I had been giving to an elderly lady in my district. I had only been able to do this because my PA was able to take and collect me.

27th August Had to be up early for PA training as I am recruiting a new PA this went on until 11.00 am then I collected my friend and took her to Leicester to choose a new outfit for a wedding. Ate lunch in town then came home all with the support of my PA.

28th August Went down town with PA grocery shopping. Then made orange and chocolate cake with PA looks and tastes yummy!

30th August Had leisurely breakfast made by PA then had lunch after which my PA drove me to cinema film was mediocre. Had lovely roast cooked by PA. Both dogs up the rec with my PA – dogs had lovely time. Watched some TV then decided to have an early night, perhaps readers might think nothing unusual about this but in the old days before ILF I had no choice as to when I went to bed.

31st August Trip to Aldi to purchase the food for our holiday in two weeks. Came home PA put shopping away and we both had lunch.
Mark Williams-My ILF Photo Diary
This diary aims to show how the ILF helps me to lead an independent life in the community. Without the ILF I would be trapped in my own home with no life.

Saturday 23rd August 2014
Today I met up with two friends, one of whom I knew at school and had lunch with them in a café. This is how the ILF helps with my social life.

Collette and Mark

Thursday 28th August 2014
Today I went to an accessible climbing event where I sat on the Bristol Disability Equality Forum Stall in order to publicise the group and get more members.

Promoting the BDEF

Keep up with our new ILF Diaries page coming soon

join the facebook group or find other ways to support the campaign at the link

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2014/04/support-the-saveilf-campaign-by-using-this-twitter-or-facebook-picture/

#saveilf

Aug 232014
 

 

Read Denise McKenna’s co founder of Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) response to Rethink’s mail out that termed people with mental health issues as a ‘disease burden’!

DPAC fully support our good friends Denise and MHRN in urging Rethink to issue an immediate apology for using this offensive term.

If you want to email Rethink’s CEO too his email is mark.winstanley@rethink.org

Dear Mr Winstanley,

 

Members of the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) and our friends at Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) were included in your mail-out below. We were shocked and bewildered that Rethink thought it acceptable to use the term “disease burden” in relation to mental health in a bulk mail-out. In this context it is brutal language and has caused offence to those of us who live with mental distress and to other members of the disability movement who have received your mailing. 

 

Disease burden” is a specialist piece of jargon used in disease informatics but, even when used in this context, disabled people do not accept that it is neutral. No language is neutral and this term should never have been used in a mail-out to random disabled people. You are no doubt aware that the words “disease” and, above all, “burden” are highly toxic to disabled people and those living with mental distress. It was crass to send this out willy nilly. Is there no sensitivity at Rethink? 

  

We urge you to issue an immediate apology to all of the people who received this mailing and rightly experienced it as offensive and hurtful.

 

Yours sincerely,

Denise McKenna

Co-founder, MHRN

Manifesto for Better Mental Health

Dear

Today we’re launching A Manifesto for Better Mental Health which sets out practical changes that a future Government must make in order to ensure our mental and physical health are valued equally. We’ve joined forces with our colleagues across mental health to agree on five key areas we are calling on all political parties to commit to if they are elected in 2015.

Mental health accounts for 23% of the disease burden, but it gets just 13% of the NHS budget and funding has been cut even further for the last three years.

This is not acceptable. The next Government must seriously tackle this issue.

That’s why we need YOU. You can help us secure change by:

Send a card to your MP with the Manifesto’s key priorities for action

1. Fair funding for mental health
2. Give children a good start in life
3. Improve physical health care for people with mental health problems
4. Improve the lives of people with mental health problems
5. Better access to mental health services

Share our asks on social media and raise awareness

Our Manifesto for Better Mental Health’  has been written with the Centre for Mental Health, Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Network, Mind and the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Together we intend to turn this tide. Our time has come.

Thanks for your continued help and support,

Mark Winstanley
Chief Executive

 

Aug 192014
 

 

A second court case against the DWP on the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will take place at the Royal Courts of Justice on the 22nd and 23rd of October. It is expected to last one and half days.

There will be a vigil outside the courts from 12.30 on the 22nd to support the ILF users taking the case and to support our right to independent living as enshrined in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities- article 19

Article 19: “Living independently and being included in the community”, states that “disabled people have a right to live in the community; with the support they need and can make choices like other people do”.

Please join with us to show your support!

The closure of the ILF  has obvious implications for the UK’s chances of meeting such obligations. Most importantly for those disabled people who will lose this financial support they will lose any independence and choice in their lives. You can listen to how this vicious attack will affect disabled people at these links.

http://www.dpac.uk.net/2013/02/a-nasty-cut-people-affected-by-the-closure-of-the-independent-l5142/

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMElPk0pq6I

 

We will be posting further updates

 

Aug 182014
 

We’re currently producing a brochure for campaigning work and wanted to include a few examples of how each cut has affected disabled people. We already have examples for most things but if you have been affected by the bedroom tax, council tax reduction changes, or the overall benefit cap, cuts to social care or increased charges for care could you please send us a short email about what has happened to you and how this has affected you to mail@dpac.uk.net

 

Many thanks for help with this.

Linda

 Posted by at 21:01
Aug 162014
 

 

(Report from workshop at national meeting of Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice federation)

Fighting Benefit Sanctions

 

The government has a policy  of increasing sanctions to force people off benefits. 

 

More than 800,000 people have been sanctioned in the last year. Referrals to food banks are mainly due to claimants being sanctioned. 

 

Martin Cavanagh is the PCS Group Exec member for civil servants working in the DWP.  The PCS union resolved at their recent conference to oppose both Workfare and Benefit Sanctions. He explained the three central reasons behind the Tories policy of increasing sanctions; Further demonisation of the poor, financial savings for the government, and driving a wedge between claimants and workers. 

 

PCS survey of members working in the DWP revealed that 82% of members felt ‘pressured’ into sanctioning claimants, and 62% said they had made ‘inappropriate’ sanctions decisions. 

 sanctions

The Kirklees Axe The Tax group have used a banner : No Sanction for Claimants! No Targets for Staff! This attracted claimants and some staff to their stall outside a job centre.

 

Roger Lewis speaking for DPAC said that ‘more needed to be done by the PCS.’ But, he insisted, ‘we will not allow the government to divide us. Those working for the DWP alongside claimants have a common interest, we are locked together in a common fight against the Tories.’ 

 

‘More will be done from our union the PCS over the sanctions,’ explained Martin. 

 

‘Advice for claimants on how to challenge sanction decisions has now been agreed between our union, the PCS, Unite the Union Community branches, and campaigners against sanctions. That advice will be issued shortly.’

 

Research has shown that only 1 in 50 claimants who are sanctioned appeal the decision. Of those 90% win their appeal. Forthcoming advice will explain to claimants how they can appeal. 

 

To launch the joint advice and joint campaign, we agreed a day of action against benefit sanctions for Thursday 11th September. 

 

Protests will be organised in every region outside key DWP headquarters or similar high profile government offices.

Fighting Workfare

Public campaigns work! 

 

With just a few protesters the Boycott Workfare actions have ‘shamed’ many employers into withdrawing from the Workfare scheme. Companies and businesses don’t want to be exposed as employing ‘slave’ labour. Only when a company signs up to the Boycott Workfare pledge are they removed for the Boycott Workfare website listing. 

 

Protests outside flagship venues of those companies still in the scheme will continue until the schemes are scrapped.

 

Reblogged with thanks from http://antibedroomtax.org.uk/2013-05-29-04-42-41/latest-news/110-stop-sanctions-11th-sept-day-of-action

 

 

Aug 162014
 

 

Responsible department: Department for Work and Pensions

We are asking for the inequality in the way Personal Independent Payment (PIP) claims are handled to be stopped and for those making transfers from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to PIP to be treated in the same way as fresh claims for PIP.

Currently those making claims for PIP have their payments backdated to date of claim. However those receiving DLA do not get their claim backdated even if a change of circumstance means they are entitled to a higher rate of payment.

Payments are made from date of decision, meaning current delays, which the DWP admit to, mean claimants losing out on several weeks payments, depending on the length of delay and time to process a claim.

This goes against what the DWP themselves have said in response to questions from Susan Elan Jones MP i.e. ‘…the benefit is backdated so NO ONE is left out of pocket’. The current system is in no way equitable and victimises long term disabled people.

There is a petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/66447

Also let us know if this has happened to you by emailing : mail@dpac.uk.net

 

 

Aug 152014
 

 

The campaign to save the Independent living Fund (ILF) is now at its most crucial stage, because it involves you.

 

Following the high profile Westminster Abbey sit-in and the tea parties held outside DWP offices, we’re now asking ILF recipients to invite MPs to their homes to show them exactly what the ILF means in reality and why it must be kept.

 

This Summer is a great time to lobby MPs as they’ll be back in their constituencies working hard in the hope of securing votes in the run up to the 2015 General Election.

 

Please take the simple steps in this toolkit and let us know how it goes so we can target politicians and do everything we can together to save the ILF.

 

It includes writing a letter/email to your MP, writing to the local paper, meeting your MP, arguments and briefing and an invitation for your MP to the MP Drop in on 2nd September

 

Independent Living fund Drop in

with BBC Silent Witness actress Liz Carr

2 September 2014; 2 – 4pm; House of Commons Committee Room 19

This drop in session will be a chance for MPs to find out more about the closure of the ILF which currently supports nearly 18,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently in the community, to contribute to society in employment, education, volunteering, as family members, friends and as members of our communities and to build the local economy through employing teams of Personal Assistants.

 

The surgery will be an opportunity to ask questions and to speak to Liz who has been enabled, through support from the ILF, to progress an acting career that has spanned stand-up comedy, presenting for BBC and primetime television.

 

Also in attendance to answer your questions will be a former ILF staff representative and a disabled person who missed out on the ILF through its closure to new applicants in 2010 and whose experiences reflect those of many other disabled people now excluded from participating in areas of life that non-disabled people take for granted.

 

The Drop in is being organized by PCS Union, Disabled People Against Cuts and Inclusion London.

 

For more information contact ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon.co.uk or Natasha@pcs.org.uk

 

Click Save-the-ILF-mobilisation to download the full Save ILF Mobilisation Word document

 

 

 

Aug 142014
 

 

Disabled people are more likely than all other groups to be impacted by the cuts to legal aid. The Ministry of Justice conducted an equality impact assessment which concluded “that overall the proposals have the potential to impact a greater proportion of women, BAME people and ill or disabled people.” 1 The assessment found that, whilst 19% of the general population have a long-term illness or are disabled, the figure was 58% of those receiving legal aid for welfare benefit claims. To get legal aid for a discrimination case, disabled people must use a telephone gateway, and there are now only three firms allowed to apply for legal aid for discrimination claims. This has resulted in a massive drop in the number of people getting legal aid for this type of case; in terms of discrimination cases there is a 77% shortfall in the predicted take-up since these restrictions were introduced2.

 

If you have been personally affected . For example have been unable to claim support, had to part claim, or had to represent yourself in court and would be willing to talk about this to a Guardian journalist please contact emma.howard@theguardian.com as soon as possible.

 

It is only by talking about how we are affected that we are able to get these issues out to the public.

 

 

1Reform of Legal Aid in England and Wales: Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) June 2011

http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20111121205348/http:/www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/consultations/legal-aid-reform-eia.pdf, See Table 6, in particular

2See “Civil legal aid – the secret legal service”, a report published by Legal Action Group in September 2013 reviewing the figures for legal aid take-up in the first quarter of 2013-14.

 

Aug 142014
 

 

Has anyone experience of people being denied #ESA in annual review, reinstated on appeal, but refused back payments on technicalities?

Please get in touch with Kerry McCarthy MP

email: kerry.mccarthy.mp@parliament.uk 

Twitter:@KerryMP

Facebook:http://www.facebook.com/Kerry4MP 

Kerry McCarthy MP
326a Church Road
St. George
Bristol
BS5 8AJ

phone: 0117 939 9901 (Lines are open from Monday – Friday 10am – 1pm)

MP for East Bristol you can also contact DPAC on : mail@dpac.uk.net

twitter: dis_PPL_protest

 

Aug 142014
 

 

At midday today (August 14), protestors from Reclaim the Power set up camp at Preston New Road, at fracking company Cuadrilla’s proposed drilling site. Approximately 1000 attendees will stay for six days, to take direct action and share skills and knowledge. They do so in support of the local community’s fight against Cuadrilla’s plans to drill for shale gas in Lancashire.[1]

Last year, the Reclaim the Power camp shut down Cuadrilla’s operations in Balcombe, Sussex for a week. The company later announced that they would not frack the site, and the Balcombe community has set up an initiative to supply their area with renewable energy.[2]

 

In 2011, Blackpool experienced earthquakes caused by fracking. Hannah Jones from Reclaim the Power said:

Blackpool is where the fracking industry started in the UK, and this is where it has to stop. Besides the damage it can cause to water and air locally, fracked gas can be as bad for the climate as coal. We need energy that’s sustainable, democratic, and affordable, instead of corporate controlled fossil fuels.”

 

Since August 7th, a group of Lancashire grandmothers, mothers, and children have been occupying the field at Preston New Road – one of Cuadrilla’s proposed drill sites. Local residents handed in a record-breaking 14,000 objections to a council consultation on Cuadrilla’s plans.[3] When asked why the local women are occupying the field, Tina Louise from Lancashire said,

The shale gas industry and Cuadrilla in particular have not acted honestly in their dealings with our community and are not to be trusted with the health and well-being of our children. We do not want them here and so are gathering to make sure we are heard and we are calling others to help us amplify this. As air and water do not recognize county boundaries, the defence is for everybody in the UK.”

[1] Press pack with more detailed camp information available. [2]http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/17/balcombe-fracking-energy-community-renewables[3]http://www.foe.co.uk/news/14000-people-call-frack-free-lancashire

Contacts @nodashforgas
07447 027112
press@nodashforgas.org.uk

 

Aug 112014
 

 

This is an unreported national scandal….

It is only the mainstream media’s failure to bring this state of chaos to the public’s attention which prevents it from being plastered all over the front page of every single national newspaper.

If this was people stuck in NHS waiting listsawaiting their passports, unable to travel by train, stranded abroad,struggling to get money out of cash pointsmarooned in the channel tunnel, affected by adverse weather conditions or by striking public service workers the national newspapers would ensure it was in print for all to see.  

Yet here in the UK we have a crisis of unprecedented proportions as thousands upon thousands wait month upon month to get the benefits to which they are entitled to and hardly a word appears in any of the big hitting papers. The British public are being deceived into believing that government’s welfare reforms are achieving the desired results with no unnecessary human suffering.

The mainstream media has a duty to report the mayhem which exists within the chaotic Department for Work & Pensions and must expose this mass maladministration of thousand of benefit claims.  What makes this all the more deplorable is the victims are by and large thousands of sick and disabled people who desperately need the right amount of cash to live on.  

1 million delayed assessments/decisions, 1.7 million appeals & 1.3 million put through the sanction regime is a collective 4 million exposed to some degree of benefit decision related chaos.  How can 4 million people locked in government backed chaos not be a national chaos?  we could say:
1 million delayed assessments/decisions, 1.7 million appeals and 1.3 million put through the arbitrary sanction regime is a collective 4 million people plunged into chaos by DWP incompetence and IDS arrogance. Why is it not a national scandal and why are the media not talking about the huge waste of money and the terrible human costs of the Welfare reform?

Chaotic Department for Work & Pensions fails to process people’s claims, leaving tens of thousands of claimants destitute & impoverished for months on end…..

On the 23rd June 2014, the then disability minister Mike Penning admitted in Parliament that the number of claimants awaiting an assessment for Employment & Support Allowance had stood stood at a staggering 766,000.
 
 
On the 5th June 2014 the DWP quietly produced statistics relating to the government’s new Personal Independence Payment statistics which showed that from April 2013 to March 2014 out of 349,000 new claims made, just 83,900 had reached the stage where a formal decision had been made on the applicant’s claim – a backlog of 265,100 claims where the claimant hasn’t received one single penny of the benefit for which they have applied. 

Between the two benefits, Employment & Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payments, an eye watering 1,031,100 claimants have yet to receive the legal decision which determines their claim.  It leaves claimants in absolute turmoil and completely unable to access the help they need.

Problems aren’t limited to ESA & PIP assessment chaos

This one million claimants does not include those who have had a decision, but are in embroiled in thousands of disputes with the DWP & Local Authorities over long drawn out battles which need independent determination by one of Her Majesties’ Courts & Service’s Tribunals.  

Since April 2010 no less than 1,698,321 benefit appeals have been lodged with Tribunals, of which 939,100
relate to the Employment & Support Allowance. Nearly 1.7 million benefit appeals is just part of this much bigger chaos. 

In March 2014, 78,347 benefit appeal cases remained outstanding.  In 2012/13 the number of benefit appeals received by formal tribunals was 507,131 against 465,497 cases which had been dealt with.  By 2013/14, whilst the number of appeals had fallen to 401,197 against 545,843 disposals, the fact remains that thousands are still trapped in a chronic backlog of appeal cases which saw 77,931 adjournments and a further 44,021 postponements, collectively accounting for some 22% of all benefit cases.  It’s mayhem on a scale which has spiralled out of control.  The DWP’s answer is to implement restrictive measures to access Tribunals with the introduction of its new ‘mandatory internal review’ procedure; a procedure which has come under fire for causing even further delays with thousands in limbo awaiting decisions.  

One MP in particular stands out, Sheila Gilmore is to be commended for her non stop persistence in calling for government to publish the figures relating to thousands of disputed decisions which are subject to the DWP’s internal review procedure.  Sheila Gilmore MP (with a little help from ilegal) has pressed this issue time and time again.  Following several complaints to the UK Statistics Authority and calling the government to account at several debates which she has called, she got the then disability minister to admit how he would “love the data to be published now, but it is not ready. As soon as it is ready, I will publish it.” – seemingly we will need to wait until the end of the year to see whether Government keeps its word.

Meanwhile, thousands of sick and disabled people await the right decision for months on end, often having to rely on food banks to survive.

On top of the one million awaiting assessments, who knows how many more thousands are stuck in a cruel and heartless system, having to wait week after week for the DWP to resolve their disputes?  – my guess is many thousands await decisions; it’s in the nature of the chaotic epidemic which has broken out in the DWP.  

The chronically stretched Department is quite obviously under resourced to deal with reforms of this magnitude.  The Public and Commercial Services Union are saying, in the wake of staffing cuts within the Department, that the DWPneeds more staff, not less.” 
 

On top of all this, the DWP have been applying sanctions on a level never seen before.  As refute report“Under the new sanctions regime, introduced on the 22nd October 2012, a total of 1.35 million sanction decisions have been made up to June 2013, of which, 580,000 were adverse decisions”.

Local Councils in meltdown 

What few people outside of the benefits system appreciate is how all of these delayed assessments, appeals and sanctions impact upon cash starved Local Authorities.  Councils such as Birmingham are struggling, to put it mildly, to see how they can come up with a budget plan when they know they are expected to make of 28% cuts from central government funding by 2015

1 million delayed assessments, 1.7 million appeals and nearly 600,000 adverse sanctions all have a knock on effect as local councils grapple with revised Housing Benefit awards, Council Tax Support and decide how best to administer limited Discretionary Housing Payment awards.  Every delayed assessment can affects other benefits, sometimes tax credits and the worst nightmare begins when an appeal leads to everything being retrospectively awarded.  It means going through umpteen awards and re – revising them to reflect the new entitlement.  There is also the knock on effect of the bedroom tax, localism of Council Tax support as well as the social fund now being dealt with at Local Authority level.  

Few Council’s will speak out for fear of having their funding cut further or being labelled as ‘inefficient’ when compared against authorities in more prosperous areas where deprivation is less of a problem.   

A national scandal 

The mainstream media is doing no one any favours by glossing over the worsening chaos within the DWP and Local Authorities.  Failing to print a the real story as to the true extent of this crisis doesn’t make the crisis go away, the media owes a duty to the wider public to give way to propaganda and needs to out this scandal for what it is.  

1 million delayed assessments/decisions, 1.7 million appeals & 1.3 million put through the sanction regime is a collective 4 million exposed to some degree of benefit decision related chaos.  How can 4 million people locked in government backed chaos not be a national chaos? 

Government’s answer is something it has the raw nerve to call ‘Universal’ Credit.  By April 2014, the Secretary of State had promised that 1 million claimants would be on the new ‘single streamlined benefit’ system.  He has consistently misled his fellow Parliamentarians and the British public in to believing his flagship benefit system is ‘on track’ to transform the lives of 8 million households.  The reality is that the latest DWP figures confirm how between May 2013 and April 2014 6,960 claimants have made a new Universal Credit claim with 5,880 remaining on benefit – an overall reduction of just 1,080.  As always with the DWP, there’s no indication as to how many of them found work.  

What should worry us all is how the mainstream media, particularly the right wing tabloids, continue to pretend this crisis doesn’t exist. 

Burying this outrageous crisis behind good news is no answer, the media has a duty to tell the truth. They should do so without any sense of allegiance to those who have got these welfare reforms so horribly wrong.

 

With thanks to Nick @Mylegalforum and apologies for tampering a little with the headline

see more from Nick at ilegal.org.uk
 

 

Aug 092014
 

 

Disabled people have been expressing their disquiet at the news that the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will cease to exist in 2015, and that the money will be transferred to Local Authorities. To date, out of the 153 surveyed Local Authorities and from 106 responses, only 10 Local Authorities have said they will ringfence the transferred funds to ILF recipients, which means that in all other areas, ILF recipients face a potential reduction of their care packages. How is it likely to happen?

An interesting article was published this morning by Joe Halewood (@SpeyeJoe): http://speye.wordpress.com/2014/08/09/dhp-dubious-hoodwinking-practices-or-how-ids-pulled-the-woolsack-over-the-courts-eyes/

which shows that 16% (UK average) of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) allocated by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to Local Authorities to mitigate the impacts of welfare reforms, and specifically of the infamous bedroom tax have been awards unrelated to welfare reforms. See Table 5 and 6 here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/322455/use-of-discretionary-housing-payments-june-2014.pdf

It would be interesting to know what the money was spent on, but more to the point, DWP has twice relied on the DHP argument to win a legal case against claimants challenging the bedroom tax policy, and although DWP’s spokesperson said that the government has put in £345m to mitigate the bedroom tax, the figures shown in the Table 5 and 6 not only disprove this but also show that out of the money disbursed, 16% of the allocated funds have been used for awards totally unrelated to welfare reforms. This shows that disabled people are right to be worried about the future of the transferred ILF funds and about the willingness or unwillingness of Local Authorities to allocate these funds to disabled people who have been assessed as having the greatest needs. The ILF should be retained until assurance is given that these people will not see a reduction in their care packages.

 

 

Jul 202014
 

Rob prepared this statement for the recent Disability Rights UK conference (18th July) He was not allowed to give his statement- we publish it here so people can understand why all voices should be heard and listened to.

The Fight for Our Lives

 My name is Robert Punton I am a disabled person and an Independent Living Fund (ILF) recipient I come here today to oppose Disability Rights UK stance on the closing of the ILF.

I have been a disabled activist for over 30 years both in a paid and unpaid capacity.  The money I have received through ILF funding has in no small part enabled me to achieve this, I have employed the same two guys as my Personal Assistants Mike Orme and Darren Harrison for over 25 years and now I am employing their son Daryl Harrison-Orme in the same capacity.  If the closure goes ahead this puts our partnership (family) in serious jeopardy.

I make no bones about the fact that as a person with high support needs without this extra funding I would be languishing in a Scope home or one run by some other likeminded establishment.  In saying this I am not in anyway denigrating the lives of anyone living there but I much prefer my lifestyle and will fight to my last breathe to save it.  Make no mistake everyone using ILF is in the same boat and none of us want to sink.

I am a member of DPAC and Co Director in Community Navigator Services with Clenton Farquharson MBE and Jack Nicholas it is a Community Interest Company we all identify as disabled; we aim to build capacity within communities to allow them to participate within society to their fullest n need or want.  We all agree the closure of ILF will severely destroy the advances that disabled people that achieved in last 3 decades.

Disability Rights UK and Simon Stevens advocate that when they close ILF it will make it a level plain field when they pass on funds to local authorities and everyone will be treated equally, equality only works when you use the highest possible denominator, in other words no one wants to be treated like their neighbour if they are being treated badly.  The term we like to use now is fighting for social justice for all, hence wanting the best standard of living (in this case support plans) for everyone.

Simon Stevens and his supports say that the ILF has made users of their scheme elitists in their communities.  I can’t argue that this may be perceived in that light. However, I would argue this two-tier system in society cannot be blamed on the independent living fund or its users; it was the Conservative government who closed the ILF in 2010 under the guidance of Maria (Killer) Miller, and in doing so cut off thousands of possible or probable new users of ILF, Con-Demning them to the level of substandard support given by most Local Authorities.

This substandard support shows the priority most local governments, and therefore National Government accord to people requiring high support – they are more than willing to leaving wallowing in our own shit!

Anyone following the campaign to SAVE the ILF led by DPAC and Inclusion London must know that we the major goal is to reopen the ILF to all people who fit their criteria.  In doing so raising the standard of those people’s support.  We believe this is the only solution not butchering the funding  of the so called “lucky” ones it in all honesty won’t help anyone.

I would love to know where the advocates of this Don’t Save ILF think the monies to raise everyone’ standards of support will come from. The money release from ILF we be swallowed up by incompetent politicians looking after their powerful votes, not us the people they view as worth less. In Authorities like Birmingham who have amassed debts of £600m you think the money given up by ILF will not even make a drip in their ocean of debt.

While I disagree with Simon’s argument I support his right to voice his opinion.  However, it is an understatement to say I am flabbergasted to hear Disability Rights UK supports this argument.  I thought you represented disabled people not the establishment!

What really exasperates me though is that we never learn from our mistakes.  Once more we are doing the governments work for them fighting between ourselves while they sit back laughing at us.  We must stop fighting and work together to defeat the Con-Dem coalition

I will finish with message to the camp supporting shut ILF.  If you can’t support don’t fight us.

Today we fight for our lives, if we lose today there will be no Tomorrow just an eternity of marginalisation and isolation either trapped our own homes or corralled in Care(less) Homes run by unscrupulous privateers only interested in profit not people

 

Thank you for listening  I hope you hear me!

 

see also: http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2014/07/disability-rights-uk-independent-living-or-new-visions-in-neo-liberalism/

 

Jul 172014
 

DPAC have had an odd kind of non-relationship with DRUK. We’ve disagreed about many things. For example, DPAC is for saving ILF, DRUK’s Sue Bott suggests this is something we should probably forget about, and that ‘Whilst the ILF has benefited many disabled people, claims that it has been at the forefront of independent living are a little exaggerated’[1]. This is not the view of ILF users. See their stories, their lives, their experiences  It is amazing that anyone can believe that passing ILF to local authorities who already say that without ring-fenced funding many ILF users will lose support and/or be institutionalised is something we need to accept while we all get together to talk about ‘new visions’.

 

The DRUK conference dedicated to a ‘new vision’ for independent living is also a confusing affair, not only are they embracing Simon Steven’s approach[2] ( He who accused DPAC of murdering disabled people and was dropped from Leonard Cheshire’s sponsor program because of his outright abuse to other disabled people[3]), but one of their advertised partners for this conference are Craegmoor .

 

Craegmoor are part of the Priory Group owned by Avent International which is a US Equity Company- changing times you may say-and you’re right. Maybe that’s what these new visions are about: capitalising on the market, private equity companies taking public money, and disability organisations getting in on the act- maybe neo-liberalism rather than disabled peoples’ rights and equality now make up ‘new visions’ of independent living

 

Craegmoor ‘s target market are those labelled with autism, learning difficulties and mental health issues. They take 85% of their funds from public funds[4]. Craegmoor’s  web site boasts of its residential homes:

We provide understanding and support for people with learning disabilities, autism and mental health problems in a variety of settings based on the individual’s abilities and needs. Our nationwide residential care services support people to develop the skills they need to live as independently as possible’.

 

Wait, since when were residential homes part of independent living? Weren’t these the very oppressions that early activists fought to get out of, and current activists (and ILF users) are fighting to stay out of?

 

Their brochure[5] goes further:

Craegmoor is part of the Priory Group of Companies. From education to hospitals, care homes and secure facilities, the Priory Group of Companies offers individually tailored, multidisciplinary treatment programmes for those with complex educational needs or requiring acute, long-term and respite mental healthcare’.

 

Treatment programs? Not sounding very independent living or social model. As well as residential homes, secure ‘hospitals’ and segregated schools. It all sounds very daunting.

 

But there’s much more on the Priory group of companies too which is even less palatable concerning cover-ups and abuse. Until July 2013 Phillip Scott was Chief Executive if the name isnt familiar, he was also the Chief Executive for Southern Cross. Itself a subject of inquiry on institutional abuse and 19 unexplained deaths[6] Craegmor say they transform lives, but in what way?

 

In May 2013 there was Melling Acres, ‘where inspectors reported major concerns about the care and welfare of its seven residents – care plans were poor, with scant information about physical health needs, there were limited activities and a lack of advocacy to enable people to express concerns about their care’. In September 2012 ‘following an anonymous tip, inspectors found residents at risk of abuse in Lammas Lodge, a home for young adults. There were not enough staff and what staff there were, inspectors found, were not properly trained to meet residents’ complex needs. There were six major areas of concern, including care and welfare, medication and safeguarding. The home, which was warned it must improve or face closure, has since been given a clean bill of health by the regulators’. Both homes were registered under Parkcare Homes’ so neither Priory or Craegmoor got the fall-out despite ownership[7].

 

This was not the case in 2012 when concerned relatives hid CCTV cameras in the room of Highbank hospital in Bury Manchester to reveal abuse by staff[8], not so with the Bentley Court home in Wolverhampton suspended by the council for what it called ‘safeguarding issues’ in 2010, a council that stopped sending those with dementia to Bentley Court[9], and not so in 2012 when what was described as the ‘Priory mental hospital’ in Windes on Bennet Lane was closed due to not meeting 10 standards of Government quality and safety including: Patients not being fully protected from the risk of abuse and their privacy, dignity and independence not being respected, staff not receiving necessary training, a lack of systems to assess and monitor the quality of the service provided, care plans did not always cover patients’ needs. There were also reports of patients attempting to escape during supervised visits into Widnes town centre[10].

 

So as said definitely NOT independent living.

 

In 2004 the then CEO of the Priory group Chai Patel said ‘My view is, if there is ever a conflict that involves choosing between care and profit, then we should not be involved in that environment,’[11] Given the examples above it seems profit is the defining factor.

 

It didn’t take long to find this information, it didn’t take long to realise that these are not the partners who should be with any organisation claiming to support independent living, even ‘new visions’. So maybe the question that needs to be asked is what exactly do DRUK support?

 

There are a few clues, in a recent blog piece by DRUK (dated 16th July) mentioning a very good Guardian piece by independent living activist John Evans[12], an ILF user, the last paragraph says: ‘Sue Bott, Director of Policy and Development at Disability Rights UK, has written a new blog which also discusses the role of the ILF but proposes that disabled people should concentrate their campaigning towards achieving a single integrated system that assesses people’s needs and allocates assistance and support based on the outcomes people could achieve in their communities and contribute to society’.

 

John Evans says everything we need to know-we have a vision for independent living and we already have a model forged by international independent living activists. There is nothing wrong with that model. There is no reason to stop fighting for it, abandon it or develop ‘visions’ or hallucinations of lesser systems in which we divide disabled people by perceived contributions to society-all disabled people are of value, all deserve to be supported. It is the ILF model that needs to be built upon and expanded to all-something that promotes real independent living.

 

The fact that a so-called user led organisation is putting forward anything different with the spectra of institutionalisation added to the mix is a tragic condemnation of all that disability activists have ever worked and fought for. We are appalled that DRUK are willing to sacrifice disabled people’s futures in this way and sadly can only assume this is to ensure on-going funding from the government.

follow @dis_ppl_protest for more

If you want to email DRUK you can do so by emailing:  liz.sayce@disabilityrightsuk.org

 

[1] http://disabilityrightsuk.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/we-need-new-vision-for-independent.html

[2] http://disabilityrightsuk.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/we-need-new-vision-for-independent.html

 

[3] http://davidg-flatout.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/inclusion-forgotten-ambition-lost-i.html?spref=tw

[4] http://www.craegmoor.co.uk/library/files/Craegmoor%20Locations%20&%20Services%20Brochure(1).pdf

[5] http://www.craegmoor.co.uk/library/files/Craegmoor%20Locations%20&%20Services%20Brochure(1).pdf

[6] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24581693

[7] http://beastrabban.wordpress.com/2013/07/20/private-eye-on-failure-of-care-at-more-care-hospitals-owned-by-american-private-equity-firms/

 

[8] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2227229/Nurses-quizzed-police-abusing-patient-Priory-Hospital-concerned-family-hid-secret-camera-room.html

 

[9] http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2010/01/15/elderly-will-no-longer-be-sent-to-care-home/

 

[10] http://www.runcornandwidnesweeklynews.co.uk/news/health/failed-priory-mental-hospital-widnes-5875608

 

[11] http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/news/432103/Man-Priory/?DCMP=ILC-SEARCH

 

[12] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/jul/16/independent-living-fund-closure-disabled-people-residential-care

Jul 112014
 

Disability activists! For New Statesman, I’m looking at the ups and the downs of using social media – Twitter, Facebook, personal blogs – for disability (and long-term sick) campaigns.

How useful have you found social media in furthering your campaigns? In what ways?

What are the downsides? Have you ever been criticised for being an ‘armchair activist’ or received “If you can tweet/blog, you can work” type accusations?

 Disabled and long-term sick campaigners have used social networks to great ends. I would love to put together something that genuinely reflects your experiences. You can get me on francesryan.journalism@gmail.com.

Thank you.

Jul 052014
 
Monday 7th July 9am: Justice for Tony and George 7th July Sheffield
Tuesday 8th July 12-2pm: Vigil for the WCA Judicial Review High Court, London
Wednesday 9th July 1pm: Legal Challenge to PIP descriptors, Birmingham – Vigil

Thanks to Paul Bull (@CllrPaul4Cowick) for producing this Storify

 Posted by at 12:32
Jul 032014
 
Friday 4th July 2pm: Independent Living Tea Party – Caxton House, Tothill St, London, SW1 #SaveILF
Friday 4th July 3pm: LET THEM EAT CAKE? No to all sanctions! Fri 4th July, 3-5pm Peckham Jobcentre.
Monday 7th July 9am: Justice for Tony and George 7th July Sheffield
Tuesday 8th July 12-2pm: Vigil for the WCA Judicial Review High Court, London
Wednesday 9th July 1pm: Legal Challenge to PIP descriptors, Birmingham – Vigil

The flyer that has been printed to hand out during the Vigil for the WCA Judicial Review at the High Court in London on the 8th of July has been reproduced below.

At the end are details of our call for people to support us by writing to Iain Duncan Smith to inform him that you are aware of the case and that you support the claimants’ fight for justice.

And if you can’t make the vigil, you can still join in by tweeting on #wcamentalhealth, Tuesday 8th July, 12pm-2pm


Banner Picture With MHRN and DPAC logos plus title

WHY ARE WE HERE TODAY? You may have heard of the tough new assessments for people claiming disability benefits; the truth is that these are mock assessments that the government are carrying out via Atos which ignore our disabilities and focus on whether we can walk 20 metres, push a button and sit in a chair. We are fighting to ensure that they conduct real assessments instead.

DID YOU KNOW THAT THE GOVERNMENT DO NOT WANT TO ASSESS US ON THE BASIS OF MEDICAL EVIDENCE FROM OUR DOCTORS AND THE OTHER HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS WHO TREAT US? Why is this? It is because the assessments that we currently go through are specifically designed to deny us access to benefits and the DWP knows that if they had to look at our medical evidence, the majority of us would qualify for disability benefits. They have been fighting tooth and nail in court to be able to continue carrying out assessments that cause harm, in order to push through the ideologically driven policies of the coalition government, with the ultimate goal of abolishing the welfare state.

THE COURTS HAVE ALREADY FOUND THAT THE WORK CAPABILITY ASSESSMENT PLACES PEOPLE WITH MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS AT A SUBSTANTIAL DISADVANTAGE BY FAILING TO ENSURE THAT WE ARE ABLE TO SUBMIT FURTHER MEDICAL EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT OUR BENEFIT CLAIMS AND TO ACCURATELY REPORT HOW OUR CONDITION IMPACTS ON OUR DAILY LIVES AND OUR ABILITY TO WORK.

It has been successfully argued in court that the DWP should make reasonable adjustments to the WCA process to make it fit for purpose, as is required of them by the Equalities Act of 2010. Today the court is hearing about what reasonable adjustments, if any, the DWP propose to make.
One would never imagine, by looking at the stories in our national media, the high levels of distress, anxiety and fear that the WCA process is causing to people who already live with mental distress. HOWEVER THERE IS CLEAR EVIDENCE THAT THERE HAS BEEN A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF SUICIDES BY CLAIMANTS GOING THROUGH THE WCA PROCESS. In addition, an overwhelming number of people have suffered a serious deterioration in their mental health requiring further NHS treatment, including hospital admissions, or have had to increase their medication as a result of having to go through this cruel and iniquitous process.
PLEASE SUPPORT OUR STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE and ensure that the safety net which exists for all of us remains effective and firmly in place by writing to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Right Honourable Iain Duncan Smith, MP, to inform him that you are aware of the case and that you support the claimants’ fight for justice.
His contact details are:

The Rt Hon Iain Duncan Smith MP
Secretary of State
Department for Work and Pensions
Caxton House
Tothill Street
London
SW1H 9DA

Or email: caxtonhouse.clerkpru@dwp.gsi.gov.uk
This vigil has been organised by DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) in partnership with the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN)


 

 Posted by at 22:41
Jul 012014
 

Urgent – Legal Challenge to PIP 20 metre descriptor to be held in Birmingham Administrative Court, Bull Street next week on July 9th and 10th.

 

The solicitors have asked for a room for observers to the case and are waiting for confirmation of that. They would like anyone who can to attend to show how important this case is to disabled people.

 

There will also be a vigil outside the court from 1- 2pm on July 9th. Bring placards, banners and friends and supporters.

 

To get updates on room availability and to check the case will not be affected by strike action on July 10th please email

birminghambenefitjustice@gmail.com

 

 

 

 Posted by at 21:30
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