Archive for the ‘ WRB ’ Category

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.
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Updated PIP Assessment Guide

The government have provided another update to the PIP Assessment Guide. It’s still not the final version, but it’s the best we have to work with so far.

Before I go any further, this guide isn’t legislation. It’s not the law but it is the guidance ATOS/Captia (depending on where you live), the DWP and Tribunal Judges should be working from when making decisions.
The two area’s of particular concern many of us campaigners raised in response to Decembers release of PIP criteria were; the loss of reliably, repeatedly  safely and in a timely manner from the legislation and the reduction of the distance people need to be able to physically mobilise to automatically get the enhanced level of PIP from 50m to a puny 20m. Naturally I would like to see the former put into legislation for added protection and the latter decision reversed. As that hasn’t happened (yet) I think it’s important to look at how the guidelines will/won’t protect us if we are unfortunate and do not manage to get those changes made.
These two areas are covered in section 3.3.Reliability.
The document says;

“3.2.7. For a descriptor to be able to apply to a claimant, the claimant must be able to reliably complete the activity as described in the descriptor. More information on this can be found in section 3.3.”

Then goes on to say;

“3.3.1.Central to the application of all the activities within the PIP assessment is a consideration of the manner in which they are undertaken. If an individual cannot reliably complete an activity in the way described then they should be considered unable to complete it.
3.3.2. Considering reliability involves looking at whether the claimant can complete the activity as described:
• Safely – being able to complete the activity in a fashion that is unlikely to cause harm to themselves or to another person.
• To an acceptable standard, given the nature of the activity.
• Repeatedly – being able to repeat the activity as often as is reasonably required.
• In a timely manner – being able to complete the activity in a reasonable time period.”

Which is fairly reassuring, it means that the assessors shouldn’t apply a descriptor unless it meets the reliably, repeatedly, safely & in a timely manner conditions. You can read up on example of those in the guide (Section 3.3, page 72). Of course those with fluctuating conditions have been pretty confused about how these four descriptors should be them. That is covered by the guidance too, it says;

“3.2.9. A scoring descriptor can apply to claimants in an activity where their impairment(s) affects their ability to complete an activity, at some stage of the day, on more than 50 per cent of days in the 12 month period. The following rules apply:
• If one descriptor in an activity is likely to apply on more than 50 per cent of the days in the 12 month period – i.e. the activity can be completed in the way described on more than 50 per cent of days – then that descriptor should be chosen.
• If two or more descriptors in an activity is likely to apply on more than 50 per cent of the days in the period, then the descriptor chosen should be the one which is the highest scoring.
• Where one single descriptor in an activity is likely to not be satisfied on more than 50 per cent of days, but a number of different scoring descriptors in that activity cumulatively are likely to be satisfied on more than 50 per cent of days, the descriptor likely to be satisfied for the highest proportion of the time should be selected. For example, if descriptor ‘B’ is likely to be satisfied on 40 per cent of days and descriptor ‘C’ on 30 per cent of days, descriptor ‘B’ should be chosen. Where two or more descriptors are satisfied for the same proportion of days, the descriptor which is the highest scoring should be chosen. ”  

Taking this as it stands it means that theoretically the DWP, Atos & Captia should have a hard time excluding people who should be covered by this umbrella. Of course they’d have a harder time if those words were in the actual legislation.

It’s not a win, but I feel it’s quite positive. The guidance isn’t overly vague which will make it harder for them to find loop holes. I do think it’s quite harsh in some areas, take this example;

“Mr X is able to stand and move unaided. He can comfortably walk up to 150 metres at a normal pace. After 150 metres he starts to become breathless and to experience some mild pain. He can continue to walk but his pace slows. The pain and breathlessness gradually increases and after 250 metres he needs to stop and rest for about 5 minutes before starting to walk again. Mr X can repeatedly walk 250 metres, with short 5-minute rests in between for around an hour. After an hour of this, he needs a longer rest of about an hour before walking again. It takes Mr X around four minutes to walk 200 metres.”

It then explains that Mr X would be judged as being able to mobilise safley, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner. I think that underestimates how short that kind of distance is and how hard it can be to find somewhere to rest. It also doesn’t look at the psychological implications of having to walk until you are in agony then stop, rest and do it all again. Though I suppose that would be covered by activity 11, planning & following journeys.

“The second area of concern is activity 12, moving around. The guidance has the following notes added to it; 

This activity should be judged in relation to a type of surface normally expected out of doors such as pavements on the flat and includes the consideration of kerbs. 

20 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to repeatedly walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence in the home.
50 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to repeatedly walk in order to achieve a basic level of independence outdoors.
50 to 200 metres is considered to be the distance that a claimant is required to be able to repeatedly walk in order to achieve a higher level of independence outdoors. 

Standing means to stand upright with at least one biological foot on the ground with or without suitable aids and appliances (note – a prosthesis is considered an appliance so a claimant with a unilateral prosthetic leg may be able to stand whereas a bilateral lower limb amputee would be unable to stand under this definition). 

“Stand and then move” requires an individual to stand and then move independently while remaining standing. It does not include a claimant who stands and then transfers into a wheelchair or similar device. Individuals who require a wheelchair or similar device to move a distance should not be considered able to stand and move that distance.  

Aids or appliances that a person uses to support their physical mobility may include walking sticks, crutches and prostheses.

When assessing whether the activity can be carried out reliably, consideration should be given to the manner in which they do so. This includes but is not limited to, their gait, their speed, the risk of falls and symptoms or side effects that could affect their ability to complete the activity, such as pain, breathlessness and fatigue.  

However, for this activity this only refers to the physical act of moving. For example, danger awareness is considered as part of activity 11.”

The descriptors have been altered as well, they now read;

A. Can stand and then move more than 200 metres, either aided or unaided. 0pts
B. Can stand and then move more than 50 metres but no more than 200 metres, either aided or unaided. 4pts
C. Can stand and then move unaided more than 20 metres but no more than 50 metres. 8pts
D. Can stand and then move using an aid or appliance more than 20 metres but no more than 50 metres. 10pts
For example, this would include people who can stand and move more than 20 metres but no further than 50 metres, but need to use an aid or appliance such as a stick or crutch to do so. [Not including wheelchairs]E. Can stand and then move more than 1 metre but no more than 20 metres, either aided or unaided. 12pts
F. Cannot, either aided or unaided, i. stand; or ii. move more than 1 metre. 12pts

This is a slight improvement, in that we now know that wheelchair users who need a chair to mobilise 20m or more are protected. Still, it’s far less than ideal. It would be far better if the distance was raised from 20m to 50m.

There has been a huge tide of negative news around the PIP changes recently, which whilst fully deserved, is also very upsetting when it’s all you hear & read day in and day out. I think we should take what positives we can from this. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t keep campaigning to get the changes made that we want to see, but that we should all take a few seconds to pat ourselves on the back before plugging onwards. These changes would not have been made without the tireless campaigning and awareness raising work hundreds of disabled people across the country.

If you want to keep fighting these changes you can have a look at the We Are Spartacus campaign group website for ideas and to keep up-to-date with developments.

Urgent PIP Action Needed – Draft Regulations

The government has announced it’s draft PIP regulations now all of the consultations have closed. Two of the biggest issues with these draft regulations are as follows;

  • Changing the criteria for enhanced mobility component of PIP for those with physical difficulties getting around – in a nutshell the Government has now decided that anyone who can walk more than 20 metres (it was initially supposed to be 50m) does not reach the threshold for the enhanced mobility component (unless they have difficulty planning and following a journey). The DWP itself admits that 42% fewer claimants will be awarded the enhanced mobility component that would be the case if DLA continued. We estimate about 200 people in each constituency will be affected by the loss of their car, Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle or wheelchair. That’s over 100,000 people losing out on access to the crucial Motability scheme. Higher rate DLA (which is being replaced with the enhanced mobility component) is also a gateway to many other benefits such as disabled persons travel cards  taxi-schemes, bus passes and fast-track access to the blue badge scheme. It has been hinted that the enhanced mobility will take over where Higher rate DLA leaves off. So the impact of this is even more than just the loss of monthly income & cars/wheelchairs.
  • Excluding the qualification that claimants must be able to perform an activity ‘safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a timely manner’ from the regulations themselves. Campaigners, myself included, fear is that if these qualifiers are not included in the regulations, they will not be legally enforceable and tribunals may not be able to apply them on appeal. The Spartacus Campaign Group hope to get some legal advice on this as quickly as possible. If you combine this with the change above it means that theoretically someone who could walk a maximum of 25m once a month could have their mobility competent removed. A disaster for anyone with even a vaguely fluctuating condition.
We have very little time to persuade MP’s that this is not acceptable. Please do what you can.

Hardest Hit have put a ‘contact your MP’ tool on their website and the Spartacus Campaign Group have provided information and a link to this and other resources at http://wearespartacus.org.uk/pip-emergency-act-now/

A letter/email often works best but if you don’t feel up to it there are other ways you can get in contact; you can tweet your MP or post on their facebook page if they have one to spread the word.

Fibrogirl has provided some handy graphics to help illustarate the 20m rule to MPs on her blog such as the following;

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.

Reversing Recovery Report

The grass roots team that brought us the Responsible Reform Report (known to many as the Spartacus Report) have launched a new report called Reversing Recovery. You can see pdfs of the summary or full version by clicking these links and if you go to the website there are links to accessible formats too. 

For those that don’t have time to read the report here is the press release whic nicely summarises the main points raised by Reversing Recovery; 

New report warns car industry to lose out under welfare reform plans

A new report has highlighted the dangers to the UK’s economy following an analysis of the impact of welfare reform on the motor industry.

‘Reversing from Recovery’, published by the WeareSpartacus campaign group, analyses figures supplied by the Department for Work and Pensions and Motability, the organisation that supplies lease cars to disabled people claiming Disability Living Allowance. The report focusses on some of the impacts of the government’s plans to reform Disability Living Allowance (DLA), and its proposal to remove 280,000 disabled people from claiming the higher mobility rate of DLA, which currently qualifies them to lease a car under the Motability scheme.


The analysis estimates that, under DLA’s replacement benefit, Personal Independence Payments (PIP), there will be a 27% reduction in the number of working age disabled people, and a 17% reduction in the number of disabled people overall, qualifying for the Motability scheme. 


Motability’s publication ‘Economic and social impact of the Motability Car Scheme’ (2010) identified the scheme’s contribution to the economy through employment generation and tax receipts. The new report shows that welfare reform plans will lead to a domino effect including the loss of:

·         3,583 jobs (from 21,080 jobs to 17,497 jobs in Motability-related industries)

·         £342 million contribution to GDP (from around £2 billion to £1.67 billion)
·         £79 million in tax receipts
·         Up to £324 million contribution to GDP from disabled people’s ability to undertake paid work.

Jane Young, an independent disability consultant who co-authored the report, said: 

“It’s not just disabled people who will lose out under the Government’s welfare reform plans. Changing from DLA to PIP means fewer people qualifying for Motability cars to the tune of about 31,000 fewer vehicles a year. Less demand means fewer jobs for the car manufacturing industry, a lower contribution to GDP and the exchequer, and a knock on effect on the availability of cars in the second hand market, which also contributes to the economy.”

The report also raises concerns about future investment in the UK by car manufacturers, given the demand for new cars is going to drop as the government phases in its plans.


Rob Parsons, an Open University lecturer who also contributed to the report, added: 

“We must remember, of course, that part of this picture is the impact of these changes on disabled people themselves.  85% of Motability car users say the car has a positive impact on their ability to access health services, whilst more than 1 in 3 of those able to work say it maintains or improves their ability to undertake paid employment. 7% of customers’ families say it enables a family member to gain or keep a job.“We’ll see disabled people less independent, less likely to be able to get or keep a job and more likely to close businesses or give up self-employment. Having welfare reform plans which interfere with employment prospects is nonsensical. The Government should think again.”

The report is calling on the Government to give further consideration to the wider consequences of disability benefits reform, including consulting more widely, before finalising the regulations under the Welfare Reform Act.

For more information or to obtain a copy of ‘Reversing from Recovery’, the full report or summary version, contact:

Notes for editors:


·         ‘Reversing from Recovery’, both the full report and the summary version, will be available to download from http://wearespartacus.org.uk after publication (25 June 2012)

·         Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is a benefit that helps individuals meet the additional costs that come from living with a disability and is payable to people in work as well as out of work
·         Details of the Government’s proposals for PIP, including projections of the number of people expected to be eligible for the enhanced mobility rate, can be found in the DWP consultation document, ‘Personal Independence Payment: Assessment thresholds and consultation’ (January 2012), available at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/consultations/2012/pip.shtml
·         The Motability publication, ‘Economic and social impact of the Motability Car Scheme’ (2010), is available for download at http://www.motability.co.uk/documents/PDFs/OEReport.pdf
·         The WeareSpartacus campaign group is an internet-based group of disabled and sick people from around the UK which campaigns for welfare benefits and social care services that enable disabled and sick people to live independently and with dignity.

WRB Will Be Made Law But It’s Not The End

So that’s it.

Tonight Lord Best forwarded an amendment to the WRB, asking that the government did detailed research on the impacts of the bill so that if it does – as many fear – cause more harm than good it can be dealt with quickly.

Lot’s of Lords spoke in support but eventually Lord Freud convinced the Peer that his amendment was not necessary and Lord Best withdrew. Now there will be no more ping-pong between the Lords and the Commons. The bill will become law. It just has to get Royal Assent, and that is a given.

It’s so sad to think that all the amendments put forward to help those who are vulnerable have systematically been denied by a blinkered government waving ‘finacial priviliage’ at any hint of Lords opposition.

Is this the end? No.

The big fight is just beginning.

Lawyers and Human Rights specialists are gearing up to fight it as are we. Remember the Poll Tax made law but was eventually defeated. We can work towards more protests and direct actions in the coming year.

The PIP consultation is currently ongoing so we have a chance to mitigate some of the damage it might cause. Go to wearespartacus.org.uk and you will find easy read documents, help and a sheet you just have to fill in to send off to the DWP so your voice is heard. There is even a forum you can join to get help and meet others like you. I’m making the most of it 😉

In a couple of years we’ll have another general election and we can show the government exactly what we think of them. We’ll also have had our chance to get our stories out nationally by then.

It’s important we try to make this a major area for Labour and other parties to focus on so they don’t forget the WRB should they come back into power. We can keep up the pressure there.

And those are just the first things off the top of my head.

Let’s no get too disheartened about this, there is still plenty more we can do. 

A Quick Update

I’ve not really been able to sit and blog in the last couple of weeks, which I am sorry about. I have been having trouble with a condition flaring and writing is just one of those things that has been too hard. I don’t think I’ve had a night where I’ve got more than 2 hours uninterrupted sleep in the last fortnight and it has eaten away at my ability to really do much. I’m sure many of you have often been in the same boat.

Still, I have been trying where I can to keep myself busy with useful work and I’ve had my favourite ‘fight back’ song playing as inspiration.

Mis-Shapes by Pulp – a transcript of the lyrics is at the bottom of the post.

The Welfare Reform Bill will be back in the Lords tomorrow. The Peers will consider the amendments made by the House of Commons, which was to refuse the Lords amendment on the “Bedroom Tax”, and they will most likey back down. If the Lords pass no more amendments then the WRB will get Royal Assent (because the Queen really has no power over what she signs or doesn’t) and it will become official. If you want to remind Lords to actually turn up and debate the WRB after the Health Bill, as well as explaining that we are watching then I listed I lot of ways you can contact them here.

So far the government haven’t accepted one amendment and the Lords haven’t forced the issue so an awful lot of nastiness has been passed already. The real struggle is going to be providing support, information and care for those who will be hit by the reforms in the all too near future. That is what I’m starting to focus on and it’s taking a lot of work. I don’t really have anything solid to show for it yet but hopefully in a few months I should be able to write something positive about it all.

Moving away from the WRB, I’m pleased to say that it’s International Women’s Day on March 8th. Given that today the guardian reports that there have been massive failings found in the way Police in the UK handle reported rape’s “Only three out of 43 forces keep up to date area profiles, while 2,131 reported offences were logged as ‘no crimes’” I think it’s clear there is still a fair way to go before women get equality in this country.

That said, On Saturday March 3rd Million Women Rise is holding a huge march & rally in London to coincide with IWD. I’m going to be making the hectic trip to London with my powerchair and I know quite a few other fantastic people will be too, hopefully I’ll get a chance to see some of you there! It promises to be a wonderful day.

Transcript of Lyrics:
Mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits. Raised on a diet of broken biscuits, oh we don’t look the same as youWe don’t do the things you do, but we live around here too. Oh really. Mis-shapes, mistakes, misfits, we’d like to go to town but we can’t risk itOh ’cause they just want to keep us out. You could end up with a smash in the mouth just for standing out.

Oh really. Brothers, sisters, can’t you see? The future’s owned by you and me. There won’t be fighting in the street. They think they’ve got us beat, but revenge is going to be so sweet. We’re making a move, we’re making it now, we’re coming out of the side-lines. Just put your hands up – it’s a raid yeah: We want your homes, we want your lives, we want the things you won’t allow us. We won’t use guns, we won’t use bombsWe’ll use the one thing we’ve got more of – that’s our minds.


Check your lucky numbers, that much money could drag you under, oh. What’s the point of being rich if you can’t think what to do with it? ‘Cause you’re so very thick. Oh we weren’t supposed to be, we learnt too much at school now we can’t help but see. That the future that you’ve got mapped out is nothing much to shout about. We’re making a move, we’re making it now,We’re coming out of the side-lines. Just put your hands up – it’s a raid. We want your homes, we want your lives,we want the things you won’t allow us. We won’t use guns, we won’t use bombsWe’ll use the one thing we’ve got more of – that’s our minds.


Brothers, sisters, can’t you see? The future’s owned by you and me. There won’t be fighting in the street. They think they’ve got us beat but revenge is going to be so sweet. We’re making a move. We’re making it now. We’re coming out of the sidelines. Just put your hands up – it’s a raid. We want your homes, we want your lives, we want the things you won’t allow us. We won’t use guns, we won’t use bombsWe’ll use the one thing we’ve got more of – that’s our minds. And that’s our minds. Yeah.

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