£3.7bn in cuts to disability benefits needed to help cut the deficit, says cabinet minister

Despite cuts Conservative chairman Patrick McLoughlin claimed ‘we do very proudly in this country’ at helping disabled people

A cabinet minister has rebuffed calls to cancel more than £3.7bn worth of cuts to a disability benefit, setting the scene for a showdown in Parliament.

Patrick McLoughlin said ministers had to view the funding, which would go to people with conditions including epilepsy, diabetes and dementia, in the context of a wider need to reduce the UK’s budget deficit.

Liberal Democrats have tabled a motion in the House of Lords, where the Conservatives are in a minority, that would undo the measure to severely restrict the benefit.

Ministers have said the Government will introduce emergency legislation to tighten the criteria of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) after they were ordered at tribunal to cover a broader spectrum of claimants, leading to the £3.7bn in extra spending by 2022.

While charities have warned of the impacts of the cuts, Tory party chairman Mr McLoughlin told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “We are spending as a country over £50bn a year supporting people who have got disabilities in this country.

“I think we give, overall, very generous schemes. There are changes that come about as a result of tribunals and we have to look at that.

“But as far as supporting disabled people, I think overall we do very proudly in this country.”

Asked again about the changes, Mr McLoughlin said: “We will obviously listen to what people say and look at the proposals that come forward, but overall we are still spending as a country over £60bn more each year than we are getting in as a country and we have got to look at trying to balance that budget and reduce that deficit.”

The Department of Work and Pensions was advised to expand the reach of PIP by two separate tribunals to give claimants more points for “psychological stress”.

read more here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/37bn-pip-cuts-patrick-mcloughlin-lib-dems-lords-a7600151.html


Tories’ hated bedroom tax defeated in Supreme Court giving hope to 600,000 families struggling to pay

(Please note: Jayson and Paul wins are significant victories but disabled people in adapted housing affected by the bedroom tax did not win and neither did the case of victims of domestic violence in sanctuary housing affected by the bedroom tax. They will still have to apply for DHP on case by case basis)

In a devastating blow to the hated policy, seven justices of the Supreme Court found in favour of Paul and Sue Rutherford, who look after their severely disabled grandson Warren.

The government has been defeated in the highest court in the land over the bedroom tax .

In a devastating blow to the hated policy, seven justices of the Supreme Court found in favour of Paul and Sue Rutherford, who look after their severely disabled grandson Warren.

They also backed the Carmichaels , who are unable to share a bedroom due to Jacqueline Carmichael’s severe disability.

The Rutherfords have been fighting for three years against the levy, which is charged on a room used to store Warren’s equipment.

Born with rare chromosomal disorder Potocki Shaffer syndrome – which affects the development of his bones, brain and other organs – teenage Warren needs round-the-clock care which the Rutherfords provide.

Because he has epilepsy and autism, skeletal problems and learning difficulties, Warren’s home was specially built for him as a three-bedroom bungalow to allow space for his equipment and for respite carers. Yet his grandparents are still charged £60 a month “spare room subsidy”.

This is despite the fact Paul and Sue save the taxpayer thousands of pounds a week by caring for Warren at home.

The Mirror has backed the Rutherfords since the beginning of their fight, along with many of the other families as part of our Axe the Bedroom Tax campaign.

Since the Supreme Court hearing in February, the fate of seven families have lain in the hands of in seven judges – as the Rutherfords’ case was heard alongside six other cases.

They included a victim of rape and domestic violence paying the bedroom tax on a home with a panic room – a reinforced attic with security devices provided by police.

read more: http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/tories-hated-bedroom-tax-defeated-9225019#ICID

Benefit cap discriminated against disabled people, court rules

High court finds that two claimants caring for relatives for upwards of 35 hours a week were effectively in work and should be exempt from cap

The welfare secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, unlawfully discriminated against disabled people by failing to exempt their carers from the benefit cap, a high court judge has ruled.

Mr Justice Collins said the government’s decision to apply the cap to full-time carers for adult relatives had created serious financial hardship for them, forced many to give up caring for loved ones, and loaded extra costs on to the NHS and care services.

The benefit cap, which limits working-age unemployed people to £500 a week in benefits, was introduced by the government on the basis that it sent a strong message to so-called workless families that they had to try harder to get a job.

The court ruled that the two carers who brought the case – and who were caring for upwards of 35 hours a week – were effectively in work even though they were in receipt of benefits, and therefore should be exempt from the cap.

Collins said: “To describe a household where care was being provided for at least 35 hours a week as ‘workless’ was somewhat offensive. To care for a seriously disabled person is difficult and burdensome and could properly be regarded as work.” The court ruled that the government had breached article 14 of the European convention on human rights.

read more here:http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/26/iain-duncan-smith-unlawfully-dicriminated-against-the-disabled-rules-judge

61% to lose higher rate mobility as court rejects DLA to PIP appeal

The Court of Appeal has decided that the DWP’s consultation on personal independence payment (PIP), which initially hid the fact that the qualifying mobility distance was to be reduced from 50 metres to 20 metres, was fair.

The decision brings to an end any hopes of avoiding an estimated 548,000 working age disability living allowance (DLA) claimants losing their higher rate mobility award on being forced to apply for PIP.

Second consultation
The original consultation into PIP failed to disclose the reduction in the qualifying distance which will lead to many thousands of current higher rate DLA mobility claimants having their award cut or stopped altogether.

The legality of the consultation process was then challenged by a disabled claimant who launched a judicial review.

As a result, before the case could be heard, the DWP hastily arranged a second consultation just on this issue. In spite of overwhelming opposition to the reduction, the DWP went ahead with the planned cut.

In the Court of Appeal, the claimant’s representatives argued that the consultation was not fair because by the time it took place legislation had already been enacted and systems put in place for the 20 metre rule to be used. They claimed that because of this there was no genuine possibility of the second consultation making any difference.


548,000 to lose out
The judges accepted that, because of the changes , by 2018 there were expected to be 602,000 PIP enhanced mobility component claimants as opposed to 1,030,00 claimants who would have got disability living allowance (DLA) higher rate mobility.

Crippling court costs force poverty-stricken people to ‘plead guilty to crimes they didn’t commit’

Poverty-stricken people are being encouraged to plead guilty to crimes they did not commit out of fear they will face crippling costs imposed by new financial penalties, leading lawyers, magistrates and campaigners have warned.

Legal experts have called for an urgent review of the criminal courts charge, which has been compared to “18th-century” forms of justice after being implemented earlier this year.

The new levy was introduced by the former Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, to make criminals pay for the upkeep of the courts. Because the charge can be up to 10 times higher if someone is found guilty after pleading innocence, critics say it is undermining the justice system by encouraging impoverished defendants to plead guilty even if they have done nothing wrong.

The charge is not means-tested or adjusted according to the seriousness of the crime. In the magistrates’ court it is fixed at £150 if someone pleads guilty, but it can rise to £1,000 if they are found guilty. Campaigners also say it has created an extra hardship for those whose crimes are motivated by poverty – and makes the punishment for small crimes disproportionate.

Many of those affected are homeless or unemployed, with no hope of paying. Recently subjected to the charge were a man who stole three bottles of baby milk, a woman who pinched a £2.39 bottle of shampoo and a homeless man who took a 99p can of Red Bull.

The Independent has learnt of a case this week where a man from Portsmouth was made to pay the £150 charge – as well as a £250 fine and a £25 victim surcharge – after pleading guilty to stealing a £1 bag of chocolate buttons from WHSmith. The charge was levied just a month after his application for bankruptcy was accepted.

The new policy was introduced on 13 April but since the charge can only be imposed on those whose crimes were committed after that date, the courts are only just beginning to see the full effect. At least 30 magistrates – many of them among  the most experienced – have already stepped down from the bench over the changes and many more are predicted to resign as further cases come through.

read the rest of this article here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/crippling-court-costs-force-povertystricken-people-to-plead-guilty-to-crimes-they-didnt-commit-10466451.html

Woman fined nearly £300 for stealing three bottles of baby milk

A woman has been fined nearly £300 for stealing three bottles of baby milk at South Derbyshire Magistrates Court this week.

Janis Butans, 34, was given a six-week community order with a curfew and ordered to pay a £150 criminal court fee, £85 costs and a £60 victim surcharge after sentenced for stealing the bottles from a Sainsbury’s in Intu Derby shopping centre coming to a total of £295, according to the Derby Telegraph.

It comes less than a week after the Independent reported a crowdfunding campaign had been set up to help a woman in Kidderminster pay court fines of nearly £330 for stealing a 75p pack of Mars Bars.

The fundraising page, which was set up by Stuart Campbell after he saw the original court report in the Kidderminster Shuttle, has now reached over £14,000 in less than a week.

Mandatory court fines were brought in by former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling shortly before the general election in May to make the courts more self financing.

But the charges have been denounced by legal reform charity, the Howard League, as “unequitable”. The charity’s chief executive Frances Crook said: “There is no leeway. Its a fixed charge and the courts cannot vary it because of circumstance, they have to impose it”

In a blogpost on the league’s website, she said the reports of “the homeless and hungry” being heavily fined “read like something from pre-Dickens”.

read more here: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/woman-fined-nearly-300-for-stealing-three-bottles-of-baby-milk

Magistrates quit in protest over new fines rules

MORE than 30 magistrates have resigned in protest at a new court charge introduced by the Treasury.
Just last week one magistrate in South Tyneside walked out when he was forced to add the £150 tax and other fines when sentencing a homeless man who admitted stealing a 99p can of Red Bull.

And last night another magistrate told the Sunday Express why he “could not work one more day” after being forced to apply the levy on a man on benefits who had stolen meat for his family.

The criminal court charge, which came into effect in April after being introduced by former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, ranges from £150 for anyone who pleads guilty to a summary offence at magistrates’ court up to £1,000 for those convicted after a trial of a more serious offence at magistrates’ court.

In the crown court, the charge ranges from £900 for a guilty plea up to £1,200 for conviction after trial.
The charges are not means tested.

Speaking last night Bob Hutchinson, who was deputy chairman of the Fylde Coast magistrates, Blackpool, told how he resigned his post in July after 11 years.

“I just couldn’t take it another day,” said Mr Hutchinson, 61. I agree that shoplifters who admit their crime, or who are convicted, should contribute to court costs in some way. We used to have discretion to set what we considered to be the right, and realistic, amount.But this new system is not means tested and it’s a big problem.After all, 85 per cent of those who came before me in Blackpool were on benefits.”

read the rest of this story here: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/597038/Magistrates-quit-protest-new-fines-rules