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

Aug 262014
 

Thursday 11th September 2014

End Bedroom Tax; No Sanctions for Claimants – No Targets for Staff

On 11th September the Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Campaign is holding a day of protest: say no to claimant sanctions, bedroom tax and benefit cuts

Government attacks on benefits mean hunger, debt and fear. Ex-soldier David Clapson died hungry and destitute after his benefits were stopped, the latest in a string of deaths and suicides related to sanctions and benefit cuts.  The overwhelming majority of referrals to food banks are due to  claimants being sanctioned.

Sanctions cutting benefits of disabled people on Employment and Support Allowance, rose by nearly 580 percent between March 2013 and March 2014, and total sanctions rose to over a million last year, from 100,000 in 2010 (DWP figures).
PCS union is supporting the 11 September protests.  Research by PCS members working in the DWP revealed that 82% of members felt ‘pressured’ into sanctioning claimants, and 62% said they had made ‘inappropriate’ sanctions decisions.Protests have forced Government to promise changes: see Review report. But sanctions remain a vicious plank of the Government’s punitive welfare reforms, and are still supported by Labour in parliament.

Join us on one of protests below or organise your own.  Demand an end to the Bedroom Tax and link it to the slogan: ‘No sanctions for claimants, No targets for staff’. Build links with local PCS members – contacts for local PCS in DWP and PCS regions.The Bedroom Tax is almost dead – we will demand MPs kill it now  and up the pressure to beat the sanctions regime too. Let us know any actions you are planning so we can promote them.

End Sanctions, Bedroom Tax and benefit cuts11am Old Palace Yard Westminster SW1P 3JY
and 1pm DWP HQ Tothill St SW1

Other protests planned in
Leeds, Sheffield, Oxford, Manchester/Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow


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.

 

 

Mar 192014
 

1000 mothers march for justice

with families, carers & supporters
11am Saturday 29th March 2014
Assemble at Bruce Castle Park,
Lordship Lane N17 8NU
Move off 11.30 – march down Tottenham High Road to Tottenham Green East, N15 4UR for a
PUBLIC SPEAK-OUT
Follow up meeting: Haringey benefit claimants and supporters
11 am – 1 pm Saturday 12th April
North London Community House, 22 Moorefields Rd, N17 6PY
MOTHERS OF LONDON SAY
MARCH TO DEMAND living incomes and decent, affordable homes to rent or buy for waged & unwaged
MARCH TO REJECT bedroom tax, housing benefit caps, unfair taxes, hunger and cold homes – austerity hurts vulnerable people, the rich get richer
The £500 overall benefit cap forcing families to pay rent out of the income they need for food, utilities, clothes and transport or be evicted and deported away from their extended families and vital support to anywhere in England or Wales; cap rents not benefits.
The bedroom tax hits disabled people who have one or two spare bedrooms. It also hits 50 to 60 year old adults who become unemployed and are expected to survive on £71.70 a week minus £24 pw bedroom tax and £5 pw council tax. People evicted are forced out of London – this is social and ethnic cleansing.
20% of the council tax has added to the misery of residents. Last year Haringey Council started court proceedings against 23,000 households adding £125 court costs and in over 9000 cases bailiffs’ fees, which have already been increased by 42% this year.
Sanctions imposed by jobcentres punish people for little or no reason leaving them penniless for up to three months.
Freezing increases in benefits at 1% a year while prices escalate inflict hunger and cold on thousands of households.
Food banks as an alternative to social security; the three days food does not end hunger for adults or children.  Supply food by right, not by charity.
The activities of ATOS inflict poverty on disabled people with inappropriate fitness for work tests carelessly administered.
All African Women’s Group, Barnet Alliance for Public Services, Day-Mer Turkish & Kurdish Community Organisation, UCU at CONEL, Global Women’s Strike, Haringey Alliance for Public Services,
Haringey Defend Council Housing, Haringey Federation of Residents Associations, Haringey Green Party, Haringey Housing Action Group, Haringey Solidarity Group, Haringey Trades Council, Haringey UNISON, Holy Cross United Reformed Church,
Unite the Union/Community, London Region National Pensioners Convention,
Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, Socialist Women’s Union, Socialist Workers Party,
Somerford Grove Community Centre, St. Paul’s C-of-E Tottenham,
WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities),
Women of Colour in the Global Women’s Strike
Contact Rev Paul Nicolson, Taxpayersagainstpoverty@gmail.com
Feb 032014
 

The UN Raquel Rolnik ‘s report is now out -she calls for an immediate suspension of the bedroom tax and for it to be fully evaluated in light of evidence of its negative impacts

The section on disabled people and those with long term health conditions lists the retrogression of rights and especially the impact on article 19 is copied below

1.   The plight of persons with disabilities deeply touched the Special Rapporteur. She learned from their strength and welcomed their active engagement in discussing adequate housing from their perspective, and in sharing their testimonies.

2.   At the root of many testimonies lies the threat to a hard-won right to live independently. For persons with physical and mental disabilities, as well as for the chronically ill, adequate housing means living in homes that are adapted to specific needs; close to services, care and facilities allowing them to carry out their daily routines; and in the vicinity of friends, relatives or a community essential to leading lives in dignity and freedom. Often, the compounded impact of an acute shortage of adapted and affordable accommodation, combined with other changes to the welfare system, has left them “between a rock and a hard place”: downsizing or facing rent arrears and eviction. Many testimonies refer to anxiety, stress and suicidal thoughts as a result, precisely the type of situations that should be avoided at all costs. Serious concerns about the direct impact of these reforms were already raised in 2012: “The range of reforms proposed to housing benefit, Disability Living Allowance, the Independent Living Fund, and changes to eligibility criteria risk interacting in a particularly harmful way for disabled people. … As a result, there seems to be a significant risk of retrogression of independent living and a breach of the UK’s Article 19 [CRPD] obligations.”[1] The Department for Work and Pensions has made available additional funding under the DHP scheme to assist those affected by this measure, but, as noted above, DHPs are time-bound and limited in scope.

3.   According to Inclusion Scotland, the government of Scotland estimated that 95,000 Scottish households will be affected by this measure in the first year. In Scotland, 79 per cent of the households expected to be affected (76,000) contain a disabled person. They will lose an average of 13 pounds in housing benefit. Inclusion Scotland noted with concern that persons with disabilities will be among those least able to continue to meet their rent payments.[2]

See also DPAC piece showing 87% of disabled people affected by the change to bedroom tax pre-1996 exemption

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2014/02/more-proof-disabled-people-and-family-carers-are-severely-disadvantaged-by-bedroom-tax/

 

 The full Rolnik report can be downloaded from A_HRC_25_54_Add.2_ENG



                     [1]   House of Lords and House of Commons, Joint Committee on Human Rights, Implementation of the Right of Disabled People to Independent Living (2012), para. 161.

                     [2]   Submission of Inclusion Scotland for this report.

Feb 032014
 

We are conducting an investigation into the human impact of food poverty, child poverty, payday loans, and benefit caps. Our research will form a part of a wider investigation organised by Professor of Journalism Paul Bradshaw, who is gathering information from across the UK. Our focus is on people living in Nottingham,  and are looking to bring to light issues confronting those groups who are suffering as a result of economic changes in the past three to four years.


We are looking for people to come forward with experiences particularly of using food banks in Nottingham, especially those who have started using food banks in that last few years. We are also looking for people who are payday loan customers, and who have suffered financial losses as a result of using payday loans. If anybody has also experienced financial difficulties or has felt that they have been left vulnerable following changes to the benefits system, particularly regarding benefit caps, we would very much appreciate them getting in touch.


The questions we ask will be directed at understanding the impact of these circumstances on the daily lives of people in Nottingham, and the strains that they are under with reference to any of the issues stated above. Respondents will be encouraged to speak openly about their experiences, however all responses can be kept anonymous if preferred, and we will not publish any information without the express permission of respondents.

 

Please email editorinchief@impactnottingham.com

Jan 232014
 

Caroline Murphy

22nd January:  This is day three of the Court of Appeal hearing against the bedroom tax. Monday morning began with a vigil outside the Royal Courts of Justice, supported by Disabled People against  Cuts (DPAC)WinVisibleTaxpayers Against Poverty, Camden Association of Street Properties, the Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation and others.

The Appeal concerns with discrimination against disabled people, a group disproportionately affected by the bedroom tax. Two thirds of all those hit by this iniquitous tax are disabled. Imagine for a moment that your life depends upon having ready access to cumbersome medical equipment or supplies. If you have the temerity to store them all in a small bedroom … tough. You get taxed. You should have someone living there.

If you’re facing mental health issues, changing your environment, or having personal boundaries invaded can trigger painful symptoms. But if you have that spare bedroom, you have to take in a lodger, or you have to pay the tax. It’s about as conclusive a “lose-lose” you could hope to impose on anyone.

One example given was of a mentally unwell resident whose home was filled with paperwork he had accumulated & stored over years. Was his home in an acceptable state to take in another resident?

Meanwhile, more evidence is emerging about how disabled people are plugging the holes that have opened up in their domestic budgets as a result of the bedroom tax. Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) for adults are intended to be used for specialist care & mobility support. Now they’re going on necessities.

Check out these figures from the National Housing Federation.
In a survey of disabled people denied local authority support to replace the money lost through the bedroom tax, nearly 40% had cut back on specialist mobility transport; over 25% had cut back on medical expenses; and 90% had decreased their spending on food.

Exemption from bedroom tax has been won for disabled children already. Now that exemption should be extended to disabled adults. And then it should be abolished entirely.”

 with thanks to Caroline
http://iamcarolinemurphy.tumblr.com

Caroline is on twitter: @_C_Murphy

Jan 052014
 

Singing anti-Tory songs will now land you in court. Citizen Smart who has supported many camapigns against the cuts  is before Sterling Sherrif court tomorrow (Jan 6th) for anti Tory song : Hey Mr Cameron! See video below and dont forget to sign along at a street near you-solidarity from DPAC to Citizen Smart. We’ll update on what happens

Dec 302013
 

As a grassroots campaign group DPAC wouldn’t exist without the dedication of all those who give their time to exposing what is happening: coming out on the streets, writing reports, researching, writing web content and policy critiques, heading up and being part of the growing number of local DPACs, organising events, engaging with social media and a whole set of other stuff that keeps DPAC vibrant, active and strong – its thanks to you that DPAC exists.  DPAC also want to thank the growing number of grassroots groups, individuals, academics, supporters, unions and organisations we’ve worked with in 2013.

2013 began with DPAC being awarded campaign of the year for our work in 2012 the year ends with DPAC being named as ‘people of the year’ by Owen Jones. In 2013 DPAC supported many local based protests on transport, the bedroom tax, ILF, local authority cuts and privatisation. We blocked roads protested against fuel poverty, fracking, the loss of legal aid, the bedroom tax, the closure of ILF and more. We set up Reclaiming our Futures 7 days of action joined by hundreds to celebrate the gains of the disabled peoples’ movement and to protest at the effects of imposed austerity on disabled people. DPAC launched the UK Disabled Peoples’ Manifesto which was followed by an EDM.We also published a number of reports.

There was cause to celebrate: the Government were ruled to have made the decision to close the Independent Living Fund unlawfully. Mental Health Resistance network succeeded in winning both case and appeal by the Government on the discrimination of the WCA. DPAC were approached by the UN prior to Raquel Rolnik’s UK visit to feed-in –her findings on the bedroom tax were devastating for the Government. DPAC led a whole range of events and join events on benefit justice to join together and fight the evils that this Government have imposed. While every protest, every campaign, every new network and every exposure of this Government is a success, we received growing numbers of emails from those left without money, food, homes and suffering cuts to their support.

In 2014 we must continue to fight and take all actions we can to change and expose the devastation this Government is causing to disabled people.

You can subscribe to receive all DPAC web posts or become a DPAC member at www.dpac.net.uk join us on twitter @Dis_PPL_Protest or on Facebook

 Key highlights of DPAC actions from 2013 below….

January

DPAC were awarded campaign of the year (2012) by Lipstick Socialists. They said: The fight back by disabled people as the Con/Dem Govt stripped some of the most ‘vulnerable’ sections of the community of their benefits. Their campaign against Atos (who made the decisions) during the Paralympics was inspiring and they have led the way in the fightback against the Con/Dem Govt. – See more at: http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/01/#sthash.tEoKp2ds.dpuf

Co-op Campaign: stop the Atos Contract! Launched to publicise that Co-op were thinking of renewing a three year Atos contract for occupational health-Eventual outcome Co-op publically state they wouldn’t renew the contract with Atos.

DPAC call Vigil on Judicial Review initiated by Mental Health Resistance Network on WCA

Benefit Justice organising meeting by Tenants, DPAC unions and others held in London. We also live streamed London DPAC meeting so that everyone could access it. Annie Howard exposed Atos and DWP in relation to the data protection Act http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/01/dwp-and-atos-make-a-mockery-of-the-data-protection-act/ Alan Shellbrooke a Tory MP said he wanted to introduce US style cards for those on benefits. We also linked with Fuel Poverty Action for the first of the 2013 actions on Fuel Poverty. We urged everyone to have their say on the Care Bill and to mention the ILF issues and posted advice on the Bedroom Tax and Discretionary Housing Payments and how to access them ahead of this inhuman misery. Condemn Love anti-Atos song by the excellent Kevin Robbins got it’s first airing

February

Victory for Daniel Roque Hall and Winvisable as Daniel is released from prison. Annie and Bob uncovered The Atos and DWP’s Land of make Believe http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/atos-and-dwps-land-of-make-believe/

Owen Jones donates some of his prize from young writer of the year (donated by Lord Ashcroft) to DPAC http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/thank-you-owen-but-we-wont-count-on-the-money-until-lord-ashcroft-puts-it-in-our-account/

We publicised the workfare cases The judgment on cases brought by Cait Reilly and Jamie Wilson mean that all but one of the Government’s workfare schemes (Mandatory Work Activity) that force unemployed people to work unpaid or lose benefits have been deemed unlawful. As we know IDS went off and rewrote the law- See more at: http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/#sthash.jZLw1k5A.dpuf

We publicised an update on the Bedroom Tax, unfortunately not rewritten by IDS or anyone else. The post by Frank proved to be an unfortunate prediction of what was to come.

On ILF we produced a template letter for MPs and our collected FoIs on what Local authorities responses were to the ILF consultation http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/what-local-authorities-said-about-the-closure-of-ilf/

Whitehall Traffic was brought to a standstill outside the Dept of Energy and Climate Change http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/whitehall-road-block-brings-traffic-to-a-standstill-outside-dept-of-energy-climate-change/

Unum were finally nailed on driving Governments’ on welfare cuts http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/unum-finally-nailed-through-bragging-on-driving-government-thinking/

DPAC and Inclusion London issued a statement on ILF while our National English DPOs remained silent http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/defend-independent-living-save-the-independent-living-fund/

Annie Howard exposed the myths around the support group and ESA http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/11-was-never-intended-to-be-the-number-of-people-in-the-support-group-dwp-big-blunder-annie-howard/

Atos and the treatment of mental health users and survivors was further exposed through You Tube, while  Kate Belgrave asked where were the MFCs at Atos – we’re still looking… http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/harrowing-atos-assessment-and-where-are-the-mental-health-champions/

A letter from Ed Miliband was publicised after it was sent to us by a supporter http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/letter-from-ed-miliband-on-atoswca-but-is-it-enough/

DPAC joined the campaign against the privatisation at Barnet and the great Crapita takeover http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/urgent-stop-captia-10-years-plus-contract-for-council-services-in-barnet/

We launched a campaign against Colin Brewer who said that disabled children should be put down – he later resigned, but tried to put himself forward in a subsequent election process. http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/urgent-stop-captia-10-years-plus-contract-for-council-services-in-barnet/

We published an email from one of our supporters which asked SCOPE what it was doing to save ILF , SCOPE suggested they get in touch with  DPAC http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/02/scope-and-ilf/

March

We reposted the excellent Nick on ESA Process in Chaos and the Government cover-up http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/03/dwps-esa-process-in-chaos/

As DPAC is on the working group of the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL)  against European austerity and its effect on disabled people we asked you to write to your MEPs to support  a push to get this debated in the European Parliament

March 13th was the court case on ILF in which 5 ILF users took the DWP to court against the proposed closure of ILF in 2015 We stepped up the campaign to publish stories of ILF users and those that would have benefited from ILF if it hadn’t been closed to new users in 2010 by Miller without even a dodgy consultation process. http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/independent-living-fund/

 The Benefit Justice Summit co-organised by DPAC in London brought together unions, grassroots groups, lawyers and tenants groups

We publicised news for parents of disabled children in the private rented sector and how they could claim money back from the DWP http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/03/urgent-news-for-parents-of-disabled-children-renting-in-private-sector-money-back-from-dwp/

Beth Tichbourne was fined £745 plus costs for saying that David Cameron had ‘blood on his hands’ in an outrage that we should never forget  http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/03/bethan-tichborn-cameron-has-blood-on-his-hands5503/

We publish an update on ILF court case with video http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/03/ilf-court-case-update-and-implications/

 

DPAC and our sister org Black Triangle issue a joint statement on Labour and Bedroom tax http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/03/joint-statement-and-petition-by-dpac-and-black-triangle-anti-defamation-campaign-in-defence-of-disability-rights-on-the-labour-party-campaign-against-the-bedroom-tax/

DWP and Government lies on ILF closure are exposed by DPAC in previously classified papers and memos from the DWP to ministers http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/03/summary-of-secret-correspondence-from-the-dwp-to-mcvey-on-the-ilf-closure/

ESA appeals increase by 70% DPAC reposts Nick’s analysis http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/03/more-chaos-esa-appeals-up-by-70/

Disability charities consistent apathy for disabled peoples’ lives, but not for their high salaries for directors was highlighted yet again http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/03/how-the-big-disability-charities-let-down-disabled-people-again/

DPAC supported local protests and campaigns and also protests against staff cuts on railways and transport protests

April

April was the month that the condemns brought in more of their cuts for ordinary people the hated bedroom tax, the end of council tax support, the benefit cap and more http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/04/the-nasty-party-go-on-the-offensive-against-disabled-people/

DPAC and UKUncut served eviction notices on our ‘favourite’ MPs –they had too many bedrooms –a complaint was put into You Tube who were told to remove the videos of IDS’ mansion http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/04/eviction-notice-for-ids-and-oh-my-what-a-big-house-you-have/ http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/04/ids-home-occupation-videos/

The TUC disabled workers refuse to join the Government sponsored Disability Action Alliance hosted by Disability Rights UK (DRUK) http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/04/the-disability-action-alliance-or-whatever-happened-to-the-disability-strategy/

After news that the 5 ILF users that took the DWP to court had lost the case processes began to appeal the decision and still not a word of support from the big Disability charities or the aforementioned DRUK  http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/04/claimants-to-appeal-high-court-decision-concerning-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund/

DPAC learns of a man who was arrested and tried in a secret court and jailed due to Atos –DPAC launches a campaign http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/04/man-arrested-and-tried-in-a-secret-court-after-atos-assessment-support-needed-in-nottingham/

We also supported and co-organised a number of Benefit Justice summits across the country, supported more protests on transport and privatisation and continued to support the Barnet crisis

May

We supported CSRF in protesting at the |PCS conference and their refusal to refuse to implement benefit sanctions http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/05/civil-service-rank-and-file-protest-at-pcs-conference/

We joined with False Economy in the search for the elusive Mental Function Champions at Atos , Dr Greg Wood  quits Atos and turns whistle blower http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/05/where-are-the-mental-function-champions-at-atos-and-other-atos-type-things/

DPAC publishes info on Hardship payments and budgeting loans as we get more and more emails from people caught in the poverty and sanction traps set by the DWP –the post has been shared over 36,0000 times  http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/05/hardship-paymentsbudgeting-loans-and-short-term-advances/

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

The Mental Health Resistance Network win against Government on WCA , but spectra of legal aid cuts is raised too http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/05/will-legal-victory-by-mhrn-against-atos-tests-be-our-last-we-need-to-act-now/

DPAC and the TUC disabled workers block Tottenham Court Road in an act of solidarity http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/05/dpac-and-tuc-members-in-direct-action-of-solidarity/

DPAC publishes a critique of UKIP http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/05/why-the-rise-of-ukip-is-dangerous-for-disabled-people/

DPAC’s own Ellen Clifford talks to real fare http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/05/ellen-clifford-talks-to-real-fare-on-welfare-reform-and-protest/

June

June 1st marked a day of UK wide protests against the bedroom tax attended by DPAC

DPAC publishes stats by Nick that show the huge hike in sanctions under the Coalition  http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/06/jsa-benefit-sanctions-sky-rocket-under-coalition/

DPAC holds a Birthday party protest for ILF http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/06/press-release-independent-living-fund-birthday-protest/

The fight against the Bedroom tax continues with protests and new groups springing up and supporting each other across the country http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/06/updates-the-fight-against-the-bedroom-tax/

DPAC publishes Lies, Damn IDS and Statistics  http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/06/lies-damn-ids-and-statistics/

July

DPAC releases its program for 7 days of action, campaigns and protest: Reclaiming Our Futures http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/07/reclaiming-our-futures-7-days-of-action/

DPAC joins protest at Downing Street against the bedroom tax

DPAC joins Justice Alliance to protest against cuts to legal aid

DPAC joins vigil for case against bedroom tax outside the Royal Courts of Justice

DPAC posts a list of advice and legal resources as emails from people in severe hardship escalates further http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/07/advice-and-legal-resources/

Sisters of Frida go to Geneva to challenge the situation for disabled women at the UN http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/tag/sisters-of-frida/

We list the MPs that voted against a cumulative impact assessment http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/07/for-fellow-extremists-everywhere-how-your-mp-voted-on-the-cumulative-impact-assessment/

Southwark DPAC challenge local politicians http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/07/sdpac-challenge-local-politicians/

Government Issues ministerial statement on Atos http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/07/government-issues-ministerial-statement-over-atos/

Bromley/Croydon DPAC join UKUncuts Stuff the Banks http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/07/bromleycroydon-dpac-stuff-the-banks-update/

DPAC takes part in the anti-fracking protests at Balcombe where Caroline Lucas is arrested

August

Updates for Reclaiming Our Futures 7 days of Action http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/08/reclaiming-our-futures-29th-aug-4th-sept-updates/

UK Disabled peoples’ Manifesto launched http://www.inclusionlondon.co.uk/UK%20Disabled%20peoples%20Reclaiming%20Our%20Futures%20Manifesto

John McDonnell puts forward an Early Day motion on the UK Disabled Peoples’ Manifesto put together by DPAC, Inclusion London, ALLFIE and Equal Lives Norfolk

Early Day Motion 483: Disabled People’s Manifesto
That this House warmly welcomes the launch of the UK Disabled People’s Manifesto, Reclaiming our Futures, developed by disabled people and their organisations across the UK, which sets out the shared vision of disabled people for an inclusive and equal society free from economic, social and cultural barriers; and urges all political parties represented in this House to engage in a constructive dialogue with the disabled people’s organisations promoting the manifesto with the aim of achieving its objectives. – See more at: http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/early-day-motion-483-disabled-peoples-manifesto/#sthash.VWGXvrlo.dpuf

 

DPAC are asked by UN to assist Raquel Rolnik UN Special Rapporteur on Housing prior to her visit to the UK . The visit and her findings that the bedroom tax is regressive and unfair cause Tory ministers to say she should sort her own country out, she is a Marxist and produce other ridiculous statements in the right wing media http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/un-investigator-recommends-for-bedroom-tax-to-be-scrapped-immediately/

DPAC block the front entrance of BBC for non reporting of the true situation in the UK under welfare cuts as part of the Reclaiming Our Futures 7 days of action http://www.katebelgrave.com/2013/09/disabled-people-against-cuts-block-front-entrance-of-bbc-portland-place/

DPAC host art exhibition and night of entertainment, plus a day debate on the continued relevance of the Social Model with Anne Rae, Colin Barnes and Debbie Jolly

The Brilliant Kate Belgrave writes on protests and Government Extremism, protests are held outside the DWP, the Department for Education, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Health before moving on to Parliament to host the launch of the UK Disabled People Manifesto: ‘reclaiming our Futures on the UK Freedom Drive day part of the Reclaiming Our Futures week of action

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/protests-and-government-extremism-kate-belgrave/

 

DPAC posts UK Freedom Drive film by Reel News http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/uk-freedom-drive-the-film/

 

See also http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/dpacrof-4th-september-highlights/

 

 

September

 

DPAC works with Just Fair on Independent Living Issues ahead of a planned visit by the UN special rapporteur on disability http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/dpac-works-with-just-fair-on-independent-living-issues/

We publish George Berger from Sweden report on Atos, KPMG and the NHS http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/atos-kpmg-and-the-nhs-be-afraid-be-very-afraid/

DPAC launches a new report on the WCA http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/dpac-report-work-capability-assessment/

Two of the DPAC co-founders go to Strasbourg to join the European Network on Independent Living for the 6th ENIL Freedom Drive to march to the European Parliament and tackle MEPs. Debbie Jolly is elected to serve another term on the ENIL Board and presents on behalf of DPAC on protest and what is happening in the UK under imposed austerity http://www.enil.eu/campaigns/freedom-drive/

DPAC co-organises with Wow Petition for 10,000 Cuts Memorial for those that have died through Atos and in solidarity with all suffering under Cameron’s regime of imposed austerity http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/10k-cuts-and-counting-video/ see also http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/10000-cuts-and-counting-linda-burnip/

Dr Alison Wilde discusses the Paralympic Legacy http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/paralympic-legacy-but-which-one/

DPAC supports the Ontario Coalition against Poverty who Government want to follow the lead of the UK in denying people their entitlements http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/call-out-to-support-ontario-coalition-against-poverty/

October

IDS found misleading again http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/10/ids-found-misleading-again/

DPAC and Black Triangle consider legal action against GPs who refuse to provide evidence for disabled people and those with long term health issues http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/10/legal-action-has-your-gp-refused-to-provide-further-medial-evidence-for-your-dwp-appeal/

Anita Bellows write another stunning piece exposing the bedroom tax http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/10/bedroom-tax-the-policy-which-could-only-succeed-if-it-failed-anita-bellows/

DPAC organises vigil for Mental Health Resistance WCA case appeal by DWP http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/10/vigil-for-wca-case-support-mental-health-resistance-network-21st-october/

DPAC joins UKUncut to protest to save Justice

DPAC join in protests against staff cuts on London Tubes http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/10/boriss-latest-attacks-against-accessibility-and-safety-on-london-transport/ also see http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/10/unions-unite-with-campaigners-on-tube-and-station-cuts/

DPAC publicises Punishing Poverty a report on Sanctions by Manchester CAB http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/10/sanctions-punishing-poverty-new-report-by-cab/

DPAC publishes info on mandatory reconsideration http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/10/some-information-on-mandatory-reconsideration-in-force-from-october-28th-2013/

UK Disability history month kicks off http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/10/uk-disability-history-month-launch-event/

November

ILF users win appeal, Government say they won’t fight decision –a success but we wait for the Government next moves http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/gov-will-not-appeal-court-ruling-on-closure-of-ilf/

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

DPAC reposts the critique of the Henwood and Hudson report as some in the disability field still claim that ILF should close http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/why-the-henwood-and-hudson-report-failed-in-justifying-the-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund/

DPAC ask members and supporters to write to Penning on ILF http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/write-a-message-to-penning/

Anita Bellows asks why Litchfield as ‘independent’ assessor of the WCA when he was involved in its design http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/dwp-tactics-ask-litchfield-designer-of-the-wca-to-review-it-anita-bellows/

DPAC publishes info on fuel poverty as we receive more emails from people without heating or electricity due to sanctions and welfare cuts http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/fuel-poverty/

Independent Living rights News is published on DPAC http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/independent-living-rights-news-17-november-2013/

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/independent-living-rights-news-edition-2/

Paddy Murphy writes on the apparent idiocy of DECC http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/disabled-people-and-fuel-poverty-what-does-decc-know-anyway/

DPAC attends the bedroom tax lobby at Parliament http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/report-on-the-bedroom-tax-lobby-meeting-westminster-tuesday-12th-november-2013/

DPAC , Fuel Poverty Action and the London Pensioners are joined by hundreds on the streets to protest at unacceptable fuel poverty and deaths while the energy companies continue to make huge profits http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/hundreds-protest-at-big-six-energy-companies-over-fuel-poverty-deaths/

http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/npower-protest-against-31000-fuel-poverty-deaths-this-year/

DPAC supports ALLFIE’s campaign on no return to segregated education http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/no-return-to-segregrated-education-please-sign/

DPAC and Inclusion London hear heartbreaking testimonies from disabled people affected by the cuts. We send them to the special rapporteur on disability.

DPAC and Inclusion London hold an Emergency  lobby at Parliament on Independent living to launch the DPAC report on Independent Living http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/independent-living-and-the-cumulative-impact-of-cuts-from-the-streets-to-the-commons/

Mary Laver and ILF user film on life without ILF is posted http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/an-important-request-on-ilf-from-mary-laver/

The Disability Crime Network write to the attorney General on disability hate crimes  http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/11/disability-hate-crime-network-letter-to-attorney-general/

December

Anne Novis writes on hate crime http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/12/a-life-less-valid-when-is-a-hate-crime-not-a-hate-crime-by-anne-novis-mbe/

Belgium vote yes on euthanasia for minors now accepted as law http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/12/belgium-vote-yes-on-euthanasia-for-minors/

DPAC urges members and supporters to join Boycott Workfare in online action against workfare http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/12/take-online-action-against-the-workfare-conference/

We publicise Habinteg’s report on the effect of the bedroom tax on independent living  http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/12/what-price-independent-lives-a-new-report-on-bedroom-tax/

Government lose appeal against decision that WCA discrimates against those with mental health issues.  The Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) who instigated the case against the WCA celebrate another victory. MHRN a grassroots group were later joined by the charities, but without MHRN the case would not have got to the courts. http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/12/victory-against-wca/

DPAC joins Boycott Workfare in targeting companies replacing paid work with workfare http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/12/target-the-companies-replacing-paid-work-with-workfare/

DPAC support ALLFIE’s call for action http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/12/educate-dont-segregate-allfies-call-for-action-on-the-10th-december-1pm/

We publicise Equal Lives’ video on how the cuts effect at the local level http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/12/our-lives-equal-lives-norfolk-and-the-cuts/

DPAC posts video by Colin Barnes on the importance of the social model by UCU http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/12/interview-with-colin-barnes-what-are-the-origins-of-the-social-model-of-disability-and-why-is-it-so-important-to-equal-rights-campaigners/

DPAC attends open meeting with Mike Penning http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/12/feedback-from-todays-meeting-with-mike-penning/

DPAC publicises the case of Anthony  Kletzander’s  treatment in Ireland at the hands of ‘professionals’ as he is denied basic rights http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/12/update-anthony-kletzander-needs-your-help/

Owen Jones names DPAC as one of his ‘person of the year’ choices for 2013 http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/who-is-your-person-of-the-year-9018337.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 032013
 

What price independent lives? – launched on the United Nations Day of Disabled People – highlights the combined effect of a range of benefit cuts on disabled people’s incomes and the particular threat this poses to independent living.

Analysis of Habinteg’s detailed tenancy data at a six month point after the introduction of benefit cuts revealed the specific financial hardship faced by disabled tenants as a result of benefit restrictions. It shows that two thirds of tenants affected by the bedroom tax are disabled people.

However the impact of this is deepened when the same people face other benefit cuts and variable policies by local authorities. The result is that the ability for disabled people to pay the additional costs associated with living an independent life is being severely restricted.

Key findings of What price independent lives?:

·         Two-thirds of Habinteg tenants affected by the bedroom tax are disabled people and of these, after six months of the new rules being in place, only a third had been exempted from paying by local authorities.

·         56 per cent of Habinteg tenants living in wheelchair standard properties have not yet been given exempt status from the bedroom tax.

·         Only 15 per cent of tenants who receive Disability Living Allowance (DLA) but live in general needs properties have been given bedroom tax exempt status by their local authority raising concerns that disabled people in this group may be faced with additionally reduced income when tested for eligibility for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

·         The localised criteria for bedroom tax exemption has created a new postcode lottery for disabled people with an inconsistent and unpredictable approach which varies between local authorities. Such variation reinforces the barriers disabled people face if they want to move, whether for job opportunities or other reasons, and deepens inequality between disabled and non-disabled people.

·         Most tenants adversely affected by the bedroom tax are preparing to “stay and pay” in order to keep their existing property. The chronic shortage of wheelchair standard and accessible properties makes moving to downsize simply not an option.

·         Where local authorities do not agree exempt status, Habinteg is supporting tenants to apply for financial support under the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) schemes. However, where information is available, it suggests that many disabled people are being refused DHP support. Three out of four case studies in the report have been refused DHPs. Some tenants have been given this support by their local authority while others in similar circumstances have been refused. This inconsistency makes it difficult for housing providers to manage their response and support tenants.

Habinteg is calling for the Government to repeal the bedroom tax, especially in respect of disabled people, review their stance on Universal Credit which will not cover service charging on disability-related adaptations and revise their plans to cut benefit payments under the transfer from Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments.

Habinteg Chief Executive, Paul Gamble, said: “Our report shows clearly the disproportionate impact from combined welfare reform policies on disabled people and highlights the very serious risk that the basic right to an independent life is threatened by the increased financial burden.

“We want the Government to acknowledge, understand and act on the cumulative impact of its welfare cuts agenda on disabled people. We are calling for the repeal of the bedroom tax, especially in respect of disabled people along with other steps to ensure their on-going right to independence and inclusion in their homes and communities.”

Baroness Rosalie Wilkins, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Disability Group, said: “Habinteg’s new research provides a rallying cry for choice, independence and equality. Independent living is a right not a privilege. The way in which the bedroom tax cuts the incomes of disabled people at a stroke and impinges on their ability to live independently is something that must be challenged.

“I fully endorse Habinteg in their efforts to persuade the government to listen to the evidence, call a halt to the bedroom tax and rethink a welfare benefits programme that is unfairly impacting on disabled people.”

A Habinteg tenant case study from What price independent lives? (who wished to remain anonymous) said: “I can’t begin to explain how stressful this whole process has been. It was a trauma to work out what I was going to do. I kept thinking why would they do this?

“I never believed that moving was an option as the lack of a purpose built one bedroom wheelchair accessible home gave me no choice but to find a way to pay.”

The full report can be found at www.habinteg.org.uk/whatpriceindependentlives

Nov 242013
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

The people are doing community advocacy through DIRECT ACTION!’

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

 

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

Postscript: Media Coverage

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

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

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

Coverage of the commons debate

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

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

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

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

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

Letter to Southwark Benefit Justice Campaign from Councillor Richard Livingstone

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Councillor Richard Livingstone

Cabinet member for Finance, Resources and Community Safety

Labour councillor for Livesey Ward

Oct 162013
 

We learned yesterday that the bedroom tax may not save as much money as the public were told. In fact it seems that savings were likely to be £160m less than the official projections of £480m for the first year, according to real data collected by four housing associations since April through a model used in 2012 by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to assess the likely impact of the policy.

But we are missing the real story here. What the report written by Professor Rebecca Tunstall at the University of York’s Centre for Housing Policy tells us is that the projected savings were only possible if none of the affected 660,000 households responded to the policy by moving to a smaller home http://www.york.ac.uk/media/chp/documents/2013/Testing%20DWP%20Assessment%20of%20Impact%20of%20SRS%20Size%20Criterion%20on%20HB%20Costs%20University%20of%20York.pdf.

In other words, the bedroom tax was only going to be cost-effective and produce savings if none of the affected households moved. Why did the government make the assumption that nobody would move? Because it knew that there were not enough 1 and 2 bedroom houses to move into.

But let’s look at the implications of this assumption:

·         The government knew there was a shortage of one and two bedroom houses

·         The government knew that most affected households included a disabled person

·         The government knew that people would fall into arrears or cough up their £14 per bedroom because they had no choice

·         And the government knew that when it talked about fairness and overcrowding it was being disingenuous.

The bedroom tax had nothing to do with fairness as claimed, because the government knew the policy would hurt the poorest and those least able to defend themselves, nor did it have anything to do with helping overcrowded families move into bigger houses, because the government assumed that was never going to happen.

This has to be the most ruthless, manipulative, callous and mendacious government of all time.  

Sep 282013
 

Just less than 3 years ago disabled people marched at the Tory party conference to protest against austerity cuts using the slogan CUTS KILL. Even though it was obvious that the plans outlined by millionaire George Osborne in the June 2010 Spending Review would not be good for disabled people even we did not envisage just how fast our welfare state would be destroyed by the Condems or how many disabled people would be pushed to suicide or death through the malicious Condem cuts.

 

We could not have imagined that 3 years later we’d be getting daily emails from disabled people and pregnant disabled people who were actually starving and being left without food, money or access to any hardship payments. We knew but couldn’t have possibly imagined that disabled people would have their benefits stopped for weeks and in some cases months without any means to support themselves other than possible prostitution, drug dealing or theft. What do you do when you are already living on the breadline with no savings and your only income is taken away? We never imagined we’d read about children, disabled and non-disabled being left without food.

 

It’s hard to believe it’s the UK we’re talking about yet this is what life has become for many in the 21st century in the 7th richest nation in the world. We never imagined that we’d go so far backwards that all of the gains made for disabled people’s rights over the last 30 years would effectively just be swept away as disabled people are vilified as shirkers and scroungers.

 

10,000 Cuts and Counting is a single issue protest against the now discredited computerised Work Capability Assessment executed by ATOS. It has pushed so many disabled people to suicide or death through fear and stress that DWP have now stopped collecting any statistics on the death count but between January 2011 and November 2011, some 10,600 claims ended and a date of death was recorded within six weeks of the claim end. DPAC and other campaigners are proud to have destroyed the ATOS brand name but there is no point in just replacing ATOS with another corporate monster and the WCA must be scrapped in its entirity. Why should any private firm rake in millions and millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to provide a totally flawed service which could be provided by civil servants for a fraction of the cost as has been the case until recently? The WCA was put in place to cut the number of claimants by 1 million either through miracle cures or death it seems.

 

One of the next major battles disabled people face is the scrapping of Disability Living Allowance put in place to meet the extra costs of being disabled. This too has been designed with only one aim in mind to cut costs and remove 20% of disabled people from entitlement. Many disabled people rely on this income to enable them to work and will no longer be able to if it is lost to them. Even more will be left trapped in their homes with no means to go out.

 

For anyone who thinks this doesn’t matter to them 6 out of 7 disabled people have an acquired impairment through long term illness or an accident. Most of you will also get older and so how older disabled people are treated should be of great concern to you – it’s your future. Let’s not be polite older disabled people are often treated worse than animals in the UK getting 4 x 15 minutes ‘pop ins’ if they’re lucky and imprisoned in their homes and some left soaking wet the rest of the time.

 

This is the fate now awaiting younger disabled people from 2015 when without any vote in parliament the Independent Living Fund will be closed leaving local councils to try to replace this funding with ever shrinking budgets and different eligibility criteria.

 

At the same time they say they want disabled people to work but without this vital support even if found fit for work they are unable to. The Remploy factories have been decimated in the Condem attacks against disabled people supported by some organisations who purport to campaign for us. At last count only about 3% of those made redundant had secured mainstream employment but given the barriers to gaining and keeping employment that disabled people face this was always likely. To this we need to add the benefit cap which is in effect a futher cut.

 

The Bedroom Tax so loudly condemned by the UN rapporteur Raquel Rolnik existed in the private rented sector since 2008 and Labour who introduced this have singularly forgotten to mention that they originally also planned to roll it out in April 2010 to the social housing sector. None of us should forget that most of these horrors now affecting both disabled and other people were in many cases introduced by Labour and it is time for all of us all to start to tell them what they must do if they want to have a chance of being elected.

 

It is also way past time for the larger unions to stop pussy-footing around, stop unconditionally supporting a neo-liberal Labour party and force them to act as an effective opposition and outline their real policies. The unions and TUC should have already called a general strike but need to do so now urgently. It is time to add industrial power to community activism if any vestiges of our welfare state are to be salvaged for our children.

 

Disabled people and others also face a further raft of cuts and attacks to the NHS and in particular mental health services, to health and safety at work legislation, to Access to Work funding, to secure employment and not zero hours contracts, to accessible transport, to accessible housing, a right to mainstream education, cuts to council tax benefit, all coupled with cuts to CAB services, legal aid cuts and lastly the introduction of the Lobbying Bill which regardless of it’s eventual outcome will not silence us in any way. We are now many thousands and we will be heard.

This piece is also due to be published in the Morning Star

 

 

Sep 202013
 

Ed Miliband’s pledge that a future Labour Government will rescind the Bedroom Tax is welcome news to all who have been fighting to Axe the Tax since its introduction in April. The Bedroom Tax is indeed ‘a nasty Tory tax’

Opposition to the Bedroom Tax was already widespread. Last week delegates to the Lib Dem annual conference voted for ‘an immediate review of the impact’ of the Bedroom Tax policy and its ‘affect on vulnerable tenants’. The Chief executive of the National Federation of Housing Associations, David Orr, describes the bedroom tax as the ‘economics of the madhouse’. The UN investigator Raquel Rolnik reported evidence that in the field of housing ‘human right violations’ have occurred, and she recommended the Bedroom Tax be abolished. UNISON leader Dave Prentis has called on Labour Councils to make sure there is no eviction of tenants facing Bedroom Tax rent arrears. Across Scotland militant opposition to the Bedroom Tax has ensured that landlords are adopting No Eviction policies.

Support for the Bedroom Tax is now restricted to a handful of Cabinet ministers. Pressure is now on the Tories to conduct a ‘review,’ and then scrap the Bedroom Tax.

Ellen Clifford  from Disabled People Against Cuts said “This is a welcome move by Labour. Not only is the bedroom tax cruel and unjust, it is also completely unworkable, costing millions more to implement than it could ever save. But people suffering under it need action now, they can’t wait for a general election. Labour councils must now pledge no evictions for anyone in arrears as a result of so-called welfare reform.”

With Labour now committed to Axe the Tax the Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation demands that:

1. Labour Councils, and Labour Councillors who sit on the Boards of Social Housing Providers, immediately ensure that there will be no eviction of tenants, and that the threats of eviction end immediately.

2. A future Labour Government must ensure that central government repays all bedroom tax amounts retrospectively to 1st April 2013, and reimburses tenants with all court and bailiff fees incurred as a result of the Bedroom Tax.

3. That revenue to pay for this should be raised by an under occupancy surcharge on owners of two or more mansions. This money should be paid direct to landlords to satisfy arrears and leave neither social landlords nor their tenants burdened with debt.

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

1) The Anti Bedroom tax and benefit justice federation was launched earlier this year bringing together grassroots campaigns opposed to attacks on social security and housing from across England and Wales including Disabled People Against Cuts, Defend Council Housing and local anti bedroom tax campaigns. www.antibedroomtax.org

2) UN rapporteur Raquel Rolnik met with members of the Federation and DPAC, and heard powerful testimonies from those directly affected by it http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/09/un-investigator-recommends-for-bedroom-tax-to-be-scrapped-immediately/

Sep 112013
 

British tenants and disabled people who gave evidence to a United Nations mission welcome the recommendation from Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur on housing, to abolish the bedroom tax.

In a special evidence session held in Manchester on Saturday, Rolnik, who was in the UK to investigate the housing situation in the UK, heard graphic first hand evidence from carers, sick and disabled people, a grieving widow, grandparents, separated parents and a former soldier all struggling due to the Bedroom Tax.

‘The Bedroom Tax is an abuse of my right to a family life and to our human rights,’ one tenant said in evidence.

The Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation invited Ms Rolnik to hear first hand the indiscrimate and unjust impact of the Bedroom Tax and why we are demanding it must be abolished.

Eileen Short of the Anti Bedroom Tax Federation of which DPAC is a founding member says:

‘The Bedroom Tax must be repealed, arrears written off and landlords repaid for this crass injustice.  A growing movement of defiance will resist any evictions, and demand an end to this war on tenants.’

The Tories have responded with anger to the UN recommendations with Grant Schapps, according to reports, incandescent with rage. The DWP have questioned Ms Rolnik’s ability to make findings on the basis of “anecdotal information and meetings”.

Evidence that the bedroom tax is unfair and discriminates against disabled people is so well established, Ms Rolnik, the UN’s housing expert, did not need long to see that it breaches human rights.

A judicial review earlier this year found that the government’s ‘under-occupation penalty’ did discriminate against disabled adults but the judge was not prepared to ‘micro manage’ government policy and found that under the letter of the law the government had discharged its duty in carrying out an equalities assessment irrespective of the outcome of that assessment.

Numerous reports have evidenced the impact of the bedroom tax on disabled people and the ineffectiveness of Discretionary Housing Payments in mitigating the harm. (http://www.aragon-housing.co.uk/about-us/news/100-days-of-the-bedroom-tax/http://www.papworth.org.uk/news-detail.php?aid=438).

Some of the most compelling evidence heard by Ms Rolnik came from those tenants, many of them disabled, who are personally affected. The callous way the Tories and the DWP can disregard this evidence shows just how nasty this government really is.

Watch the powerful testimonials:













Aug 262013
 

Find your local councillors at http://www.writetothem.com/ 

Or at your local council website  -Copy and paste the text below or download Word version from the link-please send any copies of responses to benefitjustice@gmail.com

Dear Councillor (insert name),

 

I am writing as one of your ward constituents to ask you to sign up to the Councillors Against the Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cuts statement and oppose anyone losing their home or being forced to move due to the Bedroom Tax or other unjust benefit cuts, and call on landlords not to evict those pushed into arrears due to these measures: http://www.defendcouncilhousing.org.uk/dch/resources/CouncillorsvBedTax2.pdf

 

The bedroom tax or ‘under-occupation penalty’ is unfair and unworkable. Two thirds of those affected by it nationally are disabled and the majority have no-where suitable to move to. Discretionary Housing Payments are a short term solution that create more work for local authorities. A July survey by the Papworth Trust, backed by the National Housing Federation , said nine out of 10 disabled people are cutting back on food or bills to pay the bedroom tax if they are refused a safety-net housing payment. Meanwhile the cost of implementing the bedroom tax costs far more than the savings the government claimed it would make.

 

To add your name to the list of Councillors please contact benefitjustice@gmail.com.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

(include your address)

Download Word version of text here: Dear Councillor-2

 

 

 

Jul 162013
 

A Q&A was held on July 4th at Southwark Independent Living Centre with ConDem MP Simon Hughes and Labour Councillor Neil Coyle.  

 

Although Hughes tried to talk the time out (spoke for over 20 mins of the hours set aside for the session!) and he and the Labour councillors played political football, THEY WERE NOT ALLOWED TO GET AWAY WITH IT.

There was a furious response from the people who attended – about 70 disabled people, carers and support workers.  Excellent questions were asked and Disabled People’s Organisation Southwark Disablement Association who had organised the event made sure those of us with prepared questions were able to speak.

Several people came up to SDPAC members after and said they were really pleased to hear confident and clear political challenges on what are, for many, life and death issues and we collected quite a few signatures on the bedroom tax petition.

Hughes actually showed himself up as hopelessly ignorant and actually tried to defend the bedroom tax.  He left looking very uncomfortable indeed.  Neil Coyle was passed one of the leaflets to announce the bedroom tax protest when he was summing up.  He said ‘I don’t want my photo being taken with this leaflet’!  We laughed like drains. He talked left and played to the gallery but we challenged him to stop the bedroom tax and turn words into action.

 

 

Jul 112013
 

27 July is a national day of protest against the Bedroom Tax – see leaflet here

. Email details of your plans, and if you want help with speakers, leaflets etc.
We know of protests in Liverpool, Manchester and across London including city centre marches, car cavalcades and tours of estates with street meetings. Pensioners groups defending universal benefits might want to join you- see http://npcuk.org/

North East Rally against the Bedroom Tax 27th July , Newcastle Civic Centre -Grey’s Monument Newcastle

Councillors against the Bedroom Tax and benefit cuts are signing a statement to show support – ask your Councillors to sign it: Councillors statement

The more we protest and organise, the stronger we get. A Federation linking new groups across Greater Manchester launches 20 July, after the 100-strong protest at the CIH Housing conference: http://nobedroomtax.co.uk/

Other dates and events
Fundraiser for the Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation: Friday 2 August from 7.30pm at the Tottenham Chances, 399 Tottenham High Road London N17 6QN. Tickets – £5 waged / £2 unwaged £10 solidarity (tickets can be ordered in advance from benefitjustice@gmail.com ). Organised with MadPride. accessible venue

Sat 13th July central London DPAC and others discussing Disabled People and the fight against austerity; plus Tommy Sheridan of Scottish Anti Bedroom Tax and Eileen Short of Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice, on How can we stop the Tories’ assault on welfare? see www.marxismfestival.org.uk

Tue 30 July Rally for Legal Aid – London 4.30pm-6.30pm Old Bailey EC4M 7EH (nearest tube St Pauls) www.savelegalaid.co.uk / justicealliance@justallianceuk

24 Sept Labour Conference meeting Brighton ‘Cut rents not benefits – build the council homes we need’ 6pm Brighthelm Centre North St

29 Sept protest at Conservative Party conference Manchester

Let us know what’s happening, for website antibedroomtax.org.uk and facebook

– See more at: http://www.internaldpac.org.uk/DPACClone/2013/07/national-bedroom-tax-protest-27-july-and-more/#sthash.WrvhbSFt.dpuf

Jun 192013
 

The fight against the Bedroom Tax and benefit cuts is spreading to new areas, as rent arrears and eviction threats sharpen the pressure. 

Manchester had a first victory last week, when protests outside Court headed off a Bedroom Tax eviction – see report and photo

Barnsley will be outside Court on Thur 20th when 700 people are summonsed for Council Tax arrears.  They are asking other groups to come with banners – details here (scroll down the page)

In Birmingham 300 people marched on Saturday despite pouring rain, in memory of Stephanie Bottrill – see BBC and ITV Central News report

Campaigns and growing rent arrears are upping pressure on Councils and landlords. Tenants are demanding to address landlords at this year’s big Housing Conference 2013 and will join a big Bedroom Tax protest when Lord Freud and other ministers speak to the conference 27 June in Manchester details here

Councils oppose Bedroom Tax:  36 local authorities met at Manchester Town Hall 7 June and called on the Government to abolish the bedroom tax – see report. This is a welcome beginning – we will continue to campaign and call for councils and landlords to agree “No Evictions” due to benefit cuts, as at least 15 councils have so far, and fight to ensure no one loses their home.

The first steering group meeting of the Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation on 8 June (see broadcast here) heard reports from round the country and agreed the following:

Campaigning:

  • Produce more material including a guide on how to fight the bedroom tax
  • Feed the website, twitter and facebook with reports and stories: email benefitjustice@gmail.com
  • Frequent press releases

Organising:

  • Try to co-ordinate a network of local and national politicians against the bedroom tax
  • Start discussions about date for national demonstration
  • Next steering group meeting – early September – venue tbc

Diary:

  • Saturday 22 June: Help leaflet and talk about benefit cuts at the People’s Assembly – London
  • Thursday 27 June: Lord “Spare Mansion” Freud Protest –  Manchester
  • Saturday 27 July: National Day of Protests against the Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cuts – leaflet here

Keep in touch – let us know your plans for 27 July Protests – and if you have suggestions, want speakers or help.

Eileen Short

for Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Fed

Follow the campaign: www.antibedroomtax.org.uk     facebook: The Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation Twitter:  @benefitjustice   

 

 

Jun 042013
 

Last Saturday saw thousands on the streets again against the Bedroom Tax. Reports and photos are still coming in – see http://antibedroomtax.org.uk/ and Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation on facebook

 

Reminder:

This Saturday 8 June, 12.30-2.30pm
is the first Steering Group meeting for the Anti Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation
at Somerstown Community Centre 150 Ossulston St London NW1 1EE (beside St Pancras and Kings Cross rail and Underground station and very near Euston station)

All Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice groups, and other campaigns fighting benefit cuts, plus supporting trade unions and organisations, are invited to send reps.  Get in touch for details or directions.

 

Hull is the latest Council considering tenants’ demands not to evict due to Bedroom Tax. Councils agreeing not to evict is a big boost to campaign confidence. Even when they continue to threaten eviction, this promise helps to galvanise resistance and keep up the pressure.

Barnsley are already threatening court action and campaigners are preparing protests at court hearings.

 

Other Dates
15 June Birmingham protest march – No more deaths from Bedroom Tax. March has support of Stephanie Bottrill’s family, and all local groups are asked to come with a banner/placards.
25 June Manchester – Lobby the Housing Providers 12-1pm CIH conference http://www.cih.org/housing2013

May 292013
 

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

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

Ellen Clifford - Benefit Justice Campaign/DPAC

Ellen Clifford – Benefit Justice Campaign/DPAC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So why aren’t we attacking rich people more?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find out more about the Benefit Justice Campaign here.

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

Follow us on Twitter/Like us on Facebook

With thanks to Real Fare please follow this excellent blog

http://realfare.wordpress.com/

 

 

May 222013
 

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

frances.ryan18@btinternet.com

 Many thanks.

May 142013
 

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

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

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

Background

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

http://www.hmbsolicitors.co.uk

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

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

www.leighday.co.uk

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

http://www.publiclawsolicitors.co.uk

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

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

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

Contact:
David Standard
Head of Media Relations
Leigh Day

dstandard@leighday.co.uk

0844 800 4981
07540 332717

May 142013
 

Wednesday 15th May, 9.30am

Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London, WC2A 2ll.

Please join us outside the Royal Courts of Justice to show solidarity and support to the claimants taking a challenge against the Government’s ‘Bedroom Tax’ that came into force on 1 April this year. The ten claims, made by a range of people affected by the Bedroom Tax, will be heard together over three days starting on Wednesday 15 May.

The ten claims, made by a range of people affected by the Bedroom Tax which came into force from 1st April this year, will be heard together over three days starting on Wednesday 15 May.

Jacqueline who has spina bifida is not able to share a bed with her husband and as there is not enough space in her bedroom for a second bed he sleeps in a second bedroom. The couple have been awarded a Discretionary Housing Payment to cover the 14% under-occupation penalty on their housing benefit that came in from 1st April but this payment will only last 6 months and they do not know how they will meet their rent when it ends.

Richard is a wheelchair user whose disabled stepdaughter lives in university halls of residence during term time. He uses his third bedroom to store equipment including a hoist, power chair and shower seat. He has had his housing benefit reduced by 25%, on the basis that he is under-occupying by two bedrooms but there are no suitably adapted properties for him to move to in either the social rented or the private sector.

The challenge comes less than a week after the Sunday People told the story of how disabled mother Stephanie Bottrill tragically took her own life after being ordered to pay an extra £20 per week under the government’s vicious bedroom tax.

The vigil is being called by Camden United for Benefit Justice, Disabled People Against Cuts, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, Taxpayers Against Poverty, and WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities).

For more information about the hearing:

http://wearespartacus.org.uk/bedroom-tax-hearing-starts-15-may/

http://www.leighday.co.uk/News/2013/March-2013/Government-lose-Bedroom-Tax-challenge-decision

 

 

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