Archive for the ‘ government ’ Category

DWP announces reconsideration of eligibility criteria for PIP

The We Are Spartacus network have released a press release about the announcement that the government will re-consult on the mobility criteria. If you’d like to share it or simply read it then it’s here:

Disability campaigners welcome today’s announcement that the Government will re-consult on the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment, which replaces Disability Living Allowance for working age disabled adults. Organisations and individuals have been campaigning vigorously on this issue since we were shocked to hear, in December last year, that the walking distance criteria for the mobility component, and therefore for assistance from the Motability scheme, had been tightened from 50 metres to 20 metres.

A disabled man, Steven Sumpter, issued  legal proceedings in March arguing that the consultation process on the new benefit was flawed because the Secretary of State did not consult on the proposal to introduce the new benchmark distance of 20 metres. This was only introduced after all the consultation stages had passed. Consultees were therefore denied the opportunity to comment on the proposal or to explain to the Secretary of State how such a restriction to the benefit will affect them and their independence.

For many years the distance of 50 metres has been accepted as an appropriate distance criteria to determine limited walking ability – including for eligibility for the blue badge, for guidance to achieve an accessible built environment, in relation to other benefits such as Employment and Support Allowance and, through legal precedent and practice, for determining whether a claimant is ‘virtually unable to walk’ for the purposes of Disability Living Allowance.

Jane Young, an independent campaigner working with the We are Spartacus network, says:

“We are relieved that the DWP is to reconsider. Our concern in relation to the 20-metre distance is that disabled people with limited walking ability, who are dependent on their Motability car or other independent mobility solution funded by their allowance, would lose their eligibility and be unable to make essential journeys – to work, to visit their GP, to hospital appointments or to social activities. We fear many would effectively become isolated in their own homes, with all the implications of that for their mental and physical health.”

Whilst the Government’s announcement is extremely positive, we remain cautious. We need to make sure that the views of disabled people and their organisations are taken seriously and that the ultimate decision focuses on meeting the needs of disabled people rather than being narrowly focused on cutting the cost of the benefit. The ability of disabled people to participate in society depends on support for independent mobility; this should be the focus of this fresh consultation.

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The Real Impact of PIP on Social Care

I’ve just finished reading about how PIP (Personal Independence Payments) will impact on social care services and it was really shocking. Simon Duffy from the Centre for Welfare Reform writes;

“The replacement of DLA with PIP will damage local communities by reducing the incomes of people in poverty, reducing charging income for social care and increasing the numbers entitled to social care. An average area will lose £7.5 million, but could add further costs of up to £11.25 million.”

Local councils spend a lot on social care for children and adults, in fact over 50% of their budgets are spent on it. Sadly, because it is where the most money is spent by already cash-strapped councils it is an area that is being hit hard by cuts. By 2015 local government is having it’s budgets cut by around 40%, with an average of 33% of that falling on social care.

Currently getting social care from your local council, can be like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. The level of disability that you must reach high that many in genuine need are turned away for not being “disabled enough” or they are turned away because the receive benefits like DLA which the council believes they can use to pay for care themselves. Those that do meet the standard often only receive about 8 hours of paid care a week with extra costs for much needed care being met by the disabled person or their families. This money, when not coming from personal wealth, comes the Independent Living Fund (ILF) – which is being scrapped – and Disability Living Allowance (DLA) – which is now being replaced by PIP. With council social care budgets being reduced by 33% many more disabled people in need of care will no longer be able to access care via social services which will leave them reliant on other sources of funding.

With the ILF gone, and there being a very high incidence of poverty associated with disability I hope you can see why access to the money from DLA, now becoming PIP is already and will be even more crucial when it comes to purchasing much needed social care. The kicker is that the government are planning to use the transition to PIP to cut the numbers currently receiving DLA by between 20-28%. They believe that figure is representative of those who are receiving DLA fraudulently (by which I mean people who’s conditions have improved but who haven’t told the DWP about it) or are simply not disabled enough to need the extra income. This figure seems to have been pulled out of the air. Regardless of the flawed ideology behind the changes the end result will be less money from DLA/PIP for disabled people to spend on care which means they will have to rely on the local council. Dr Simon Duffy explains;

“The government intends to reduce spending on DLA by PIP [1]. This changes will be phased in by 2018, by which time it will cut the incomes of disabled people by £1.5 billion [2]. This means that an average local authority, with a population of 300,000, will lose income that has been targeted at disabled adults of over £7.5 million. This will be a further blow to local economies. In addition it will inevitably have a further knock-on effect for the social care system.”

As I mentioned earlier, many are told they can’t have social care because they get DLA. If only 5% of those who will be loosing DLA when it becomes PIP become eligible for social care then there will be a additional cost of £1.1m. If 25% become eligible then there will be an extra £5.6m cost and if 50% become eligible there will be an additional £11.25m cost. This means that councils could be loosing between £8.6m – £18.75m at a time when council budgets social care budgets are already stretched to breaking point.

Realistically, without getting extra funding from central government to make up the deficit, councils will have to respond by raising the bar regarding eligibility criteria. This will make it far harder for many disabled people to access much needed care. Without access to social care disabled peoples independence is sorely curtailed. For many of us social care means we can go to work, take part in everyday activities and live in our own homes. Taking that away will be devastating to the lives of many.

I believe that the government would have a far harder time justifying these cuts had they done a cumulative impact assessment first. A cumulative impact assessment is when they look at knock on costs (both financial and ethical) as well as savings of the total impact of all the cuts to disability related benefits and services. We are trying to put pressure on the government to produce a cumulative impact assessment via a e-petition, you can sign it by clicking this link.

References:
[1] Kennedy S (2012) Personal Independence Payment: an introduction. London, House of Commons Library.
[2] DWP (2012) Personal Independence Payment – Reassessment and Impacts. London, DWP
Notes on PIP’s Impact on Social Care by Simon Duffy, Centre for Welfare Reform

Is Resistance Futile?

The 1st of April has been referred to as Black Monday by many campaigners  Over the next couple of weeks we will see many of the changes outlined in the Welfare Reform Bill (WRB) come into effect;

  • the Bedroom Tax, Universal Credit starts being rolled out, 
  • Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is being abolished and replaced by Personal Independence Payments (PIP), 
  • Legal Aid stopped being available for welfare matters, 
  • Benefits will only be uprated by 1% for the first time, 
  • Council Tax Benefit is now being controlled by local authorities and many are reducing the assistance given, 
  • the Benefit Cap hit’s in limiting all benefit payments (including housing benefit & child benefit) to £500 per week 
But… the 50p tax rate is being abolished so millionaires get a tax break. PHEW. Not all bad then.
All in all it can feel pretty bleak. Stuff like this can easily lead to people feeling; depressed, like they don’t have a voice, like no one is listening, apathetic, like fighting is pointless, angry, frustrated and bitter. All those feelings are totally valid reactions to what is happening. A point I would like to make is that these kind of policies are in part designed to make people feel that way. Like there is no point struggling against them any more, that (to borrow a Star Trek quote) resistance is futile.
I say sod that. 
We have come a massive way in the last decade and our campaigning power is still building. Social media and the internet brought us all together, many of us who up until then had felt isolated and alone. We shared stories, offered support, nattered about spoon theory and developed friendships. We talked about our experiences with welfare, prejudice, access to health, access to housing and access to work & employment. We started to see that we were not alone when Atos & the DWP declared us to be fit for work against all medical reason. We were not alone in struggling to access transport. Many of us started to see first hand that there are injustices in the world that effect us all. Then we got angry about it. That anger fulled a desire to challenge and change society. Unhappy with the representation that had been given by politicians and charities a new surge of grassroots activism developed.  
Now when reforms happen that will effect us thousands of disabled people swing into action to make sure the largely non-disabled media remembers us. We write reports. We read and analyse reports. We lobby MPs and local councillors. We talk on the TV and radio, not asking for pity but calling for society to be better. We look beyond our own backyard and talk internationally. We blog, we tweet, we raise awareness, we campaign, we talk, we act. 
I went to a mini-conference run by the Labour party in Birmingham. I asked a question which included some criticism of Atos and the whole ESA process and people gave me a round of applause. When I said “Atos” you could hear a collective “Ugh, they are terrible” style groan from the audience. I wasn’t in a room of disability rights activists, I was in a room full of people from all walks of life yet they knew what Atos was and what it means. That’s amazing! In 2009 if I said Atos to a room full of strangers hardly any ever knew what I was talking about, now most do. We did that! Our awareness raising is clearly working. In 2009 there were no stories in the news about the effects of anything from hate crime to ESA on disabled people, now there is. We did that! In 2009 I rarely heard other civil rights groups, like feminists for example, talking about intersectional disability matters, now they do. Our rising profile has done that. 
Fighting for societal change is a long game and takes time. Sadly the chances that one petition or one campaign will dramatically alter the socio-political landscape are pretty slim. That said, lots of petitions, lot’s of campaigns  not giving up and not going away can. So without further ado, for those who want to keep fighting I’ve got some ideas for you. I’ve tried to include a range of things that are accessible to most people.

Working Together Under The UN CRPD (Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities)

I went to Manchester yesterday and attended a seminar run by the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) all about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UN CRPD, or CRPD). It was really enlightening and taught me exactly how the CRPD could and couldn’t be used. I have decided to start with this post which aims to briefly summarise the basics of what I discovered. Hopefully I can get some more detailed posts written later to expand on everything.

1. What the CRPD is:

Certain groups, like children, women & disabled people are seen to face greater barriers when ensuring their human rights are met globally. A number of conventions have been drawn up to supplement the basic declaration of Universal Human Rights written by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1948; one of these is the CRPD. There are no “new rights” or “different rights” for disabled people included. The CRPD simply sets new standards and contextualises how to ensure equality for disabled people all over the world.

It is based on the social model of disability which suggests disability is the result of people with impairments being discriminated against by socially constructed barriers, be they direct or indirect in nature.

The UK signed the CRPD in 2006 (which means the UK said it agreed with the convention) then in 2009 it ratified it (which means it made a commitment to implementing it). This places the following obligations on the Government (which they coordinate through the Office for Disability Issues, ODI) ;

  • Ensure disabled people have protection from all forms of discrimination including failure to make reasonable adjustments
  • Pass new laws and make policies where appropriate
  • Abolish or change laws and practices that discriminate against disabled people
  • Take account of disabled peoples’ human rights in its practices and programmes in advance, not retroactively (sometimes called ‘mainstreaming’)
  • Collect and disseminate data and statistics in accordance with article 33 (this is to act as a qualitative measure of progress and to aid in improved policy development)
  • Ensure public authorities comply with the convention
  • To report to the UN Disability Committee in Geneva every few years to update them on it’s progress and any problem areas. The first report was done in 2011 (read it here) and the next is due in 2015, then one is due every 4 years.

2. What it is not:

It is not law. If someone breaches the CRPD then they haven’t broken a law. Fortunately there are many laws in the UK that cover the same things as the CRPD so that there can be legal recourse. For example if someone abuses a disabled person they would not be arrested for violating article 16, but they could be arrested under the Equalities Act and/or for other crimes such as harassment/criminal damage/causing bodily harm. The prosecution could then be strengthened by it also being a violation of the CRPD as judges are allowed to consider the CRPD when ruling in cases.

3. How it can be used to improve the rights of disabled people in the UK:

  • When successful prosecutions are strengthened by the CRPD it sets legal precedent, or case law. The more case law is built up around the CRPD the harder it becomes for people to ignore it.
  • The government, public bodies and local authorities all have committed to the standards in the CRPD which means that they can be used to point out to organisations where they are falling short on equality commitments.
  • As well as applying pressure on the government internally (via MPs, voting, national media, protests etc..) we can use it to apply pressure on the government externally (via suggestions & pressure or even condemnation from the UN). The government has to report to the UN on its CRDP progress every 4 years, but as you can imagine they often paint an unduly positive picture of their work. We can counter this by preparing Shadow Reports to feed back to the UN. 
To stop this post becoming a monster I’ve put up another post with details of the rights of disabled people here. A fun (and by fun I mean very depressing) game you can play is counting all the ways the Welfare Reform Bill and cuts to the provision of services for disabled people violates the CRPD the UK ratified less than 5 years ago!

Draft PIP Regulations Pass Through The Legislation Committee

Today the draft PIP regulations had a final reading which needed to be voted through by the “Eleventh Delegated Legislation Committee”. They were voted through by a fairly close margin of 10 for, 7 against.

I’ve made a storify of my live tweets for those who are interested, sorry if some are a bit harsh or don’t make too much sense I was having to type fast to keep up with the speed they were speaking at and I’m a) not a fan of PIP and b) dyslexic.
[View the story “PIP Regulations – My Live Tweets” on Storify]

WOW Petition Launch

Today at 8pm the fabulous comedienne, writer and vocal supporter of the disability rights movement Francesca Martinez launched the crowd sourced WOW Petition designed to help resist the ‘War On Welfare’. It is a UK government e-petition which ideally needs to get over 100,000 signatures. It’s going to need publicising and shouting about but I’m sure as a community we can do it. Heck, it’s been live for two and a half hours and it’s already been trending on twitter and received over 1,400 signatures!

It calls for: 

A Cumulative Impact Assessment of all cuts and changes affecting sick & disabled people, their families and carers, and a free vote on repeal of the Welfare Reform Act.
An immediate end to the Work Capability Assessment, as voted for by the British Medical Association.
 

Consultation between the Depts of Health & Education to improve support into work for sick & disabled people, and an end to forced work under threat of sanctions for people on disability benefits.

An Independent, Committee-Based Inquiry into Welfare Reform, covering but not limited to: (1) Care home admission rises, daycare centres, access to education for people with learning difficulties, universal mental health treatments, Remploy closures; (2) DWP media links, the ATOS contract, IT implementation of Universal Credit; (3) Human rights abuses against disabled people, excess claimant deaths & the disregard of medical evidence in decision making by ATOS, DWP & the Tribunal Service.

If you want to sign it click here. Once you have signed it then you will need to remember to check your inbox and click the confirmation email to make it count.

Opposition Day Disability Debate

Cartoon image entitled ‘The Great Disability Debate In Brief’. Shows a practically empty house of commons with two figures from opposite sides of the house shouting “This is your fault” whilst lone voices say “Remploy!”, “Is it lunchtime yet?” and “The disabled… are those the poor ones?”. You can click the image to enlarge.

The wonderful DrHackenbush produced this cartoon which fully sums up yesterdays Opposition debate on the following motion (emphasis mine);

That this House believes that cuts to support for disabled people and carers poses a potential  risk to their dignity and independence and will have wider social and economic costs; regrets that the Department for Work and Pensions has dropped the aim of achieving disability equality; whilst recognising that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) needs to be reformed, expresses concern that taking DLA from 500,000 disabled people and contributory Employment Support Allowance from 280,000 former workers will take vital financial support from families under pressure; expresses further concern at the Work Programme’s failure to help disabled people and the mismanaged closure of Remploy factories; notes the pressing need for continuing reform to the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) to reduce the human cost of wrong decisions; agrees with the eight Carers’ Week charities on the importance of recognising the huge contribution made by the UK’s 6.4 million carers and the need to support carers to prevent caring responsibilities pushing them into ill-health, poverty and isolation; and calls on the Government to ensure reform promotes work, independence, quality of life and opportunities for disabled people and their families, restore the commitment to disability equality in the Department for Work and Pensions’ business plan, conduct a full impact assessment of the combined effect of benefit and social care cuts on disabled people and carers, reform the WCA descriptors as suggested by charities for mental health, fluctuating conditions and sensory impairment and re-run the consultation of the future of Remploy factories.

The end result was Aye’s 236 (in favour of the motion) No’s 298 (against the motion). The No’s won. Of course the ConDems voted againsteven though many argued that the WCA was broken (and blamed labour) and that the cuts faced by disabled people (blamed labour) were hurting constituents – a nice bit of hypocrisy there. 


It showed the true nature of the House of Commons in stark reality. These debates are not about helping people or trying to make the world better but about point scoring. Team blue & yellow stopping team red getting a goal. Simple as that. 


Sue Marsh wrote a decent explanation of events (if you’d like to read some more click here). Personally I can’t be bothered to dissect a debate that the politicians attending & voting on didn’t treat with seriously any more than already have I have.

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