Birmingham Social Inclusion Green Paper Consultation

Today I discovered that a Birmingham based group, Be Birmingham, is launching a consultation on a paper they are putting forwards to try and improve social inclusion within the city.


You can read the consultation here;  Social Inclusion Green Paper Consultation

I think it is a wonderful idea so I have decided to try and see if I can engage with it. After having a read through it with an eye primarily for adult disability issues I composed the following email to them. It’s not wonderfully written (I blame the patriarchy my drugs) but hopefully it will help remind people that might not have ever had cause to engage with disability matters why it’s so vital that we do at this point.

Here is a copy of the email I sent;

Hello,  


I was reading through the Social Inclusion Green paper and I can’t find many areas that really reference adult disability in any way, other than pg 33. I see lots of mentions of social care for older people, children and families as well as a desire to make Birmingham more accessible and inclusive of people of all races & cultures; all of which is wonderful. Unfortunately I see nothing on the impact of welfare reform on disabled people, such as these issues;

  • Disabled people are disproportionately represented among benefit claimants due to educational attainment issues, higher poverty, lack of accessible work and employer discrimination.
  • 20% of people that currently DLA (to cope with the increased living costs of being disabled in a all too often non-accessible world) will be losing that income when PIP is introduced. DLA is already very hard to claim, you need a lot of letters and evidence from consultants, nurses, doctors, social workers and carers to realistically be awarded the benefit and even then chances are you will still be refused and have to go to tribunal.
  • DLA currently acts as a ‘gateway benefit’; those in receipt of it are eligible for blue badges, disabled persons rail cards, the Motability scheme (which is crucial if you need an adapted car or a electric wheelchair – something the NHS rarely can afford to provide) and a whole host of other schemes. It is heavily assumed PIP will preform the same role, except less people will receive PIP which means fewer people will have access not only to the extra income but the schemes that help make that extra income go further.
  • Contributions based ESA has been time limited to one year, which means those who have a working spouse/partner no longer receive any income of their own if their partner earns over £7500 pa. This massively increases financial dependency (something that can be a key cause of abuse), financial hardship and adds additional stress to families already struggling to adapt to having a suddenly chronically sick/ disabled person in their family. 
  • The loss of Legal Aid to challenge ESA & DLA/PIP decisions  At the moment 40% of those found ‘fit to work’ who choose to challenge that decision at tribunal are found ‘unfit to work’ and placed on ESA. 
  • Moving of people from Incapacity Benefit to ESA which means going through heavily criticised assessments where thousands of severely disabled people are found ‘fit for work’ until the decision is overturned after a stressful appeal & tribunal which can easily take a year due to the overcrowding of the tribunal system because of the flawed ESA assessment process. 
  • The bedroom tax now means that disabled people who had a extra bedroom to store essential medical equipment like dialysis machines or to provide a bed for carers/ partners that are unable to share a bed are being put at a disadvantage. Lord Freud stated during the Welfare Reform Bill debates that he believed that local councils would use the hardship fund/ social fund to help with these extra costs, but if the hardship fund continues to be only be available for short term aid then I can’t see this actually happening unless the money is explicitly ring fenced. 
  • The Independent Living Fund is also being abolished. The Independent Living Funds were set up as a national resource dedicated to the financial support of disabled people to enable them to choose to live in the community rather than in residential care. Without access to it many fear a return to the dark days when disabled people were forced into care homes and kept segregated from the community, reducing diversity and quality of life.
  • Changes to local council tax means that many disabled people who are not deemed ‘disabled enough’ to receive a disability premium because like many they either do not claim DLA, are waiting for a tribunal decision, have only been disabled for a few months or were not deemed disabled enough to warrant it will not be fully protected by the council and will have to find a way of paying a chunk of their council tax bill. 

There is a pernicious myth that charities provide money & services which will make up for the huge reduction in personal income. Sadly this isn’t the case. Charities use their money to support their awareness raising work, research and to man advice lines and centres. Most do not provide grants, adaptations, equipment, food parcels, money towards heating or care. Those few that do only provide very limited amounts to a few people with specific illnesses/disabilities in very specific circumstances. There is also another myth that fraud is rife when it comes to disability benefits, currently the fraud rate for DLA (not including errors) sits at 0.5%. Even if all the people committing fraud (and that figure includes those who’s conditions have changed and aren’t as disabled as they once were) are weeded out by the new assessments PIP will be bringing in 19.5% of those who loose out will be ‘genuinely’ disabled people who need the extra income.  

That is just one area in which many disabled people will be negatively affected and Birmingham needs a coherent policy to deal with. These issues are real and will increase isolation (which isn’t an issue that just effects the elderly), increase the risk of abuse (at a time Disability Hate Crimes are at an all time high), increase poverty amongst some of the most vulnerable people in the city and potentially increase the amount of people being forced into care homes as a result of a huge withdrawal of funds and services. We live in a city where many pavements don’t have lowered curbs which makes them non-accessible for those with mobility issues, many traffic lights are not set up to be used by those with visual impairments, the local ESA assessment centre at Fiveways is not wheelchair accessible, local high streets are too narrow to allow for ramps into shops, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 & the Equalities Act 2010 are only enforced if the disabled person discriminated against can afford the cost (both in financial and personal terms) of taking the offending business to court, the Ring and Ride scheme has started to charge, accessible social housing for those with mobility impairments is primarily reserved for over 55’s, there are huge cuts being made at every budget to Adults & Communities (which lead to the ill fated decision not to provide support for those without ‘super critical’ needs) and there is little/no representation of disabled people in our cities decision makers. Things need to change and I think your paper could be a big step in the right direction.  

I would be more than happy to meet with you and discuss these issues and help to solidify some additional proposals to strengthen your policy when it comes to disabled people. I am not affiliated with any charities but I am a disabled woman who has dedicated herself to trying to improve the lives of disabled people, especially in Birmingham.  


Warm Regards


If you live in Birmingham and feel strongly about these issues I can only suggest that you consider contacting the group and getting involved.

You can contact the campaign in the following ways;

  • Write to:
  • Jackie Mould
  • Giving Hope Changing Lives
  • PO Box 16253
  • B2 2WS
  • Via Twitter @fairbrum or use #fairbrum
  • Telephone the Partnership Team on  0121 675 3499
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