Machine Guns vs Disabled People : Ministers quake facing the wrath of disabled people.

For the past few months we at Disabled People Against Cuts have been receiving emails daily from disabled people and disabled parents with children who are being left without any food or any money for heating. They have had their benefits sanctioned and all money taken away from them for a period of between 2 weeks and 3 months. Disabled people who have never committed any crimes in their lives are being forced into shoplifting simply to be able to eat themselves or to feed their children.

The reasons they are being sanctioned are pathetic, looking for too many jobs, being late to sign on because they were at an interview for a job, having to help a pregnant partner before coming out and being 5 minutes late. Imagine being left utterly destitute in this way by a gang of uncaring, heartless millionaire politicians who think being starved will ‘encourage’ you to find one of the non-existent jobs. It is hard to believe that in a country which is still one of the richest in the world people are being deliberately and callously left to starve and freeze.

Surely democracy, if it exists, depends on government of the people by consensus rather than by the use of force or fear which is tyranny. Yet this week’s appearances by government ministers in front of the DWP select committee only highlights that no such consensus exists in the UK today.

And what of our own minister for disabled people – Mike Penning aka Machine Gun Mike and that DWP henchman Iain Duncan Smith. When the mere thought of being in the same room as a small group of disabled people exercising their democratic right to attend a select committee hearing drives DWP ministers to resort to mass protection by police guards heavily armed with machine guns pointed towards disabled spectators I think it is fair for all citizens to ask just what has this government become. Certainly they really cannot be viewed as democratic or legitimate in any way. Neither can they use the excuse that such ‘vulnerable’ people as us are in any way a threat to them – or are we?

One disabled woman who was there said

“we are being treated like terrorists because we are disabled people –  disgusting!”

and another said

“ A very disturbing sight to se an MP having guns pointed at 3 unarmed people in wheelchairs and about 8 other disabled people and carers who came peacefully to exercise their democratic right to sit in on a hearing.”

– See more at: http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/machine-guns-vs-disabled-people-ministers-quake-facing-the-wrath-of-disabled-people/#sthash.opi9guOU.dpuf

For the past few months we at Disabled People Against Cuts have been receiving emails daily from disabled people and disabled parents with children who are being left without any food or any money for heating. They have had their benefits sanctioned and all money taken away from them for a period of between 2 weeks and 3 months. Disabled people who have never committed any crimes in their lives are being forced into shoplifting simply to be able to eat themselves or to feed their children.

The reasons they are being sanctioned are pathetic, looking for too many jobs, being late to sign on because they were at an interview for a job, having to help a pregnant partner before coming out and being 5 minutes late. Imagine being left utterly destitute in this way by a gang of uncaring, heartless millionaire politicians who think being starved will ‘encourage’ you to find one of the non-existent jobs. It is hard to believe that in a country which is still one of the richest in the world people are being deliberately and callously left to starve and freeze.

Surely democracy, if it exists, depends on government of the people by consensus rather than by the use of force or fear which is tyranny. Yet this week’s appearances by government ministers in front of the DWP select committee only highlights that no such consensus exists in the UK today.

And what of our own minister for disabled people – Mike Penning aka Machine Gun Mike and that DWP henchman Iain Duncan Smith. When the mere thought of being in the same room as a small group of disabled people exercising their democratic right to attend a select committee hearing drives DWP ministers to resort to mass protection by police guards heavily armed with machine guns pointed towards disabled spectators I think it is fair for all citizens to ask just what has this government become. Certainly they really cannot be viewed as democratic or legitimate in any way. Neither can they use the excuse that such ‘vulnerable’ people as us are in any way a threat to them – or are we?

One disabled woman who was there said

“we are being treated like terrorists because we are disabled people –  disgusting!”

and another said

“ A very disturbing sight to se an MP having guns pointed at 3 unarmed people in wheelchairs and about 8 other disabled people and carers who came peacefully to exercise their democratic right to sit in on a hearing.”

– See more at: http://dpac.uk.net/2013/12/machine-guns-vs-disabled-people-ministers-quake-facing-the-wrath-of-disabled-people/#sthash.opi9guOU.dpuf

The Welfare Reform Scam

The government’s claim that it is protecting disabled people from cuts is, of course, nonsense. Deep cuts are being made to disability benefits and to social care, which is now used by 25% fewer people. But government is expert in disguising its actions and finding someone else to blame.

For instance, social care will be cut by about 33% by 2015, but local government is the scapegoat. Few people realise that a cut of 42% in local government funding must translate into deep and lasting cuts in social care. The fact that central government also pretends to be providing extra funding for social care makes the whole situation even more laughable.

When it comes to cuts in benefits their main strategy has been to claim that the benefits are being ‘reformed’ whilst making cuts by stealth. The biggest cuts are being introduced by changes to indexation – something few of us understand – but which is slowly decreasing the value of benefits year after year. This means that the UK, already the third most unequal developed country in the world, will inevitably become even more unequal.

Sometimes a new name is used to create confusion and obscure what is really going on. For example, Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is now being changed to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). In other words, a benefit that gave disabled people a little extra money, to make up for the extra costs of living with a disability, has now been given a new name with no clear meaning, but one which sounds much more ‘aspirational’. Yet the real purpose of this change is to make 0.5 million people ineligible for this modest benefit, in other words, to reduce independence.

Even more ludicrous has been the transformation of Incapacity Benefit (IB) into the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). The Work Capability Assessment (WCA) assigns disabled people to one of three possible benefits: Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), ESA’s Work Related Activity Group (ESA-WRAG) and ESA’s Support Group (ESA-SG). Who would be able to guess the purpose of these benefits from their names? These are not allowances to assist with job seeking or to enable employment; they are simply the basic benefits that people need just to exist. This is further DWP newspeak – you must invert the apparent meaning in order to find the true meaning.

Other cuts wear an even subtler disguise. A report written by leading disability campaigner Kaliya Franklin, published this week by The Centre for Welfare Reform, describes how Atos (the private medical company funded by government) works to a system of ‘norms’ in order to meet the government’s targets for cuts. Again, the same pattern, but this time Atos are the scapegoat. They are blamed for the high rate of successful appeals against their assessments and for the pain, misery and death caused by this process. But the real problem lies in the management system imposed by the DWP.

The worst kind of scapegoating and evasion is to blame disabled people themselves. Take for example the Daily Express headline: “Health tests show how 75% on sick benefits can work”.

2013-12-03-Scroungers.jpg
This shock headline feeds the lie that disabled people are skivers and it seems highly likely that it was based on this government press release:

The latest figures show that 55 per cent of new claimants who go through the Work Capability Assessment are found fit for some form of work. The official statistics published today also show that, for the latest period 20 per cent could be capable of doing some work with the right help and support…

Whether or not the Daily Express were helped to add 20% to 55% to get their silly 75% figure I do not know. However the reality is that the ESA is a system that was designed precisely to create these figures. It was an inevitable feature of government policy that disabled people would be divided into these three different groups, of these specific sizes. This is not the uncovering of skivers – as the headline implies – rather it is simply the division of disabled people into three pre-determined categories in order to save money.

At a deeper level we should question why we employ politicians and civil servants to deceive us and to stigmatise us. It may be that this is a constant problem in government; politicians seek legitimacy by distorting facts to suit themselves. Perhaps we all do this. But we grant politicians the power and resources to distort reality on a grand scale.

In particular we pay for an expensive professional civil service who serve politicians by creating systems, rules, policy changes and deceptive press releases. Perhaps it is time that the civil servants ask themselves some hard questions about their own complicity with this injustice. Good intentions and obedience to politicians are not enough. It is time the public sector and its agents remembered that they work for the public, not for our politicians.

By Simon Duffy at the ‘Huffington Post’, 4th Dec 2013: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/dr-simon-duffy/welfare-reform_b_4378693.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003

‘Immoral’ bedroom tax penalises my disabled son, says Derby mum

LOOKING at the spare room in Hayley Sims’ Mickleover home, you could easily mistake it for a hospital storage cupboard.

Shelves of nappies, medicines, paper towels, swabs, ventilator parts and special liquid food – all of it vital for the care of her son, Reuben.

The five-year-old has a serious medical condition which means he needs 24-hour care and is in one of the home’s four bedrooms which looks like a small medical ward. He has little use of his muscles, heart trouble and communicates by moving his eyes and through slight movements of his right hand.

There is nothing wrong with him mentally but his life-limiting condition means that, as he watches television, he is breathing using a ventilator. It’s not a time when you would think his mother, Reuben’s full-time carer, who also lives with her partner and seven-year-old daughter, should have to worry about anything other than her family.

But Miss Sims, 39, is currently fighting two battles linked to the Government’s under-occupancy charge, dubbed the bedroom tax by opponents. She says she is losing £18.40 a week from her housing benefit because of the “spare room” containing the medical supplies.   Miss Sims says she has the money to pay off arrears building up as a result but says she will not in protest and has branded the charge “immoral”.

She said: “David Cameron had a disabled child but his situation is far removed from the struggles of ordinary people in the same situation. If you have that much money, people tend to engage a private nursing agency. He probably did not have to pull the night shifts. MPs may well listen but they have no understanding.  I feel like I’m being penalised for having a disabled son.”

The charge is designed to encourage people in social housing to downsize and so free up empty bedrooms and reduce the nation’s benefits bills.

People lose 14% of their housing benefit per week for under-occupying by one room and 25% for having two or more spare bedrooms.

To begin with it looked as if Miss Sims would be hit for 25% but, on appeal, it was agreed that a rule which usually means children under 10 have to share a bedroom, no matter what their sex, would not apply to her. That left her with Reuben’s bedroom – also used by carers when they come to look after him at night – a bedroom for her and her part-time librarian partner, one for her daughter, Remy, and the “spare” storage room.

Her argument against being penalised for the storage room is two-fold.

First it simply would not be possible to fit that number of supplies anywhere else in the house and second she could not downsize even if she wanted to. Derwent Living, the housing association that owns the property, agrees with her that it is very unlikely any other suitable property could be found for her. And Councillor Baggy Shanker, city council cabinet member for housing and advice, says the authority would “find it very difficult to rehouse the family to a three-bedroom home”.

The house has been fitted with more than £25,000 of adaptations to make it possible to care for Reuben, who has a condition called Pompe disease, crrct a metabolic disorder which damages muscle and nerve cells. These include a commercial lift used to move him and a carer upstairs, a wet room where he can be showered, and two ceiling hoists to move him, which need reinforced ceilings.

Miss Sims said: “At the end of the day there’s nowhere else for us to go. Moving is not an option so we are trapped with this tax.” She added: “The Government are saying they are trying to free up properties but I think this is just about revenue and the amount of cash they think they can generate.”

Now Miss Sims is, with the help of Derby City Council, taking the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to a tribunal to appeal against the decision to reduce her housing benefit by 14%.

 

from the ‘Derby Telegraph’, 3rd Dec 2013. Read the rest of this article here:  http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/8216-Immoral-8217-bedroom-tax-penalises-disabled/story-20250096-detail/story.html

UN expert to hear disabled people’s austerity testimony

A UN human rights expert is to visit London later this month to hear first-hand testimony from disabled people about the impact of government cuts and reforms on their lives.

Shuaib Chalklen, the UN’s special rapporteur on disability – whose job is to monitor progress around the world towards equal opportunities – will hear the evidence at an event in north London on 25 November.

Disabled people will be able to tell him their personal stories of how they have been affected by the government’s austerity measures, including cuts and reforms to social care and social security. The next day Chalklen will be in parliament to launch a major report by Just Fair, a new charity which works in the UK to use human rights to combat poverty and inequality, and to secure social justice.

The Just Fair report will examine the impact of austerity on disabled people’s human rights, including cuts to social care, the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), the imposition of the “bedroom tax”, and cuts to disability living allowance and employment and support allowance.

Chalklen is one of Africa’s most respected disabled figures, having served as a policy analyst for the South African president, as chief executive of the African Decade of Disabled Persons, and as director of South Africa’s Office on the Status of Disabled Persons. Evidence he collects during his visit is certain to feed into the work of the UN committee monitoring the UK’s implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Linda Burnip, a co-founder of the grassroots protest group Disabled People Against Cuts, which has contributed to the Just Fair report, welcomed Chalklen’s visit. She said: “He has been keeping a close eye on what has been happening in Europe and is particularly interested to come to the UK to talk to disabled people and find out more about the impact of the cuts and how they are affecting disabled people. We are in a situation where we have what could really be described as a grave and systematic violation of disabled people’s human rights.”

She said it was important that the UN knew how the UK government was failing to implement its convention commitments. “The policies being put in place are very regressive. They are taking rights away, rather than progressively building on to them.

If Chalklen speaks out during his visit, he would be the fourth major international figure to suggest that the government’s austerity package is risking “social damage”.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot told Disability News Service (DNS) last month that UK government cuts to disability benefits risked widening the health gap between disabled and non-disabled people.

Before that, Dr Laszlo Andor, the European Union’s commissioner for employment, social affairs and inclusion, told DNS that the UK government should have done more to “minimise the social damage” caused to disabled people and other disadvantaged groups by its austerity measures.

And Raquel Rolnik, the UN’s special rapporteur on housing, called on the UK government to suspend the “bedroom tax” because of its impact on disabled people and other “vulnerable” groups.

From ‘disability News Service”, 14th Nov 2013: http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2013/11/un-expert-to-hear-disabled-peoples-austerity-testimony/

Book a free ticket for this event here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/un-special-rapporteur-on-disability-testimony-session-tickets-9341062369

I’m at my wits end, feel like crying, I don’t know what to do.

I’ve not been posting up personal accounts recently, there’s so much documented news to cover.  And so many individual stories of hardship and penury being caused by the cumulative effects of Ian Duncan Smith’s welfare ‘reforms’ on the disabled and vulnerable. This short account from the facebook page ‘disability and benefits support, don’t go alone’ is just one of tens of thousands  of desperate cases.

“Am fuming!!! 9 MONTHS & still no reply from DWP regarding me asking for a reconsideration to be moved from WRAG to support group. I phoned them AGAIN today to be told there’s still no progress!!! I’m too scared to leave the house on my own as keep blacking out (last week an ambulance was called). My psychiatrist has put me on a 3rd antidepressant & my legs are getting worse & every 14 days I have to attend my 1:1 session else my ESA will be sanctioned. I have my next 1:1 on Monday morning & have to go alone as my daughter who normally is with me all the time has been forced to do work experience else they’ll sanction her JSA. I’m at my wits end, feel like crying, I don’t know what to do. This is making me even more depressed than I already am which in turn flares up my fibro!! So sorry for the long post”

Disabled fear losing cars in rule changes

DISABLED people who are admitted to hospital for more than four weeks face having their adapted cars taken away under “short-sighted” new Government rules.

Campaigners in West Yorkshire are fighting changes to the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which they fear may leave patients and families stranded and thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Those who have the mobility part of the benefit paid directly to transport charity Motability to lease an adapted car will now have this suspended and the vehicle may be “repossessed” if they are admitted for 28 days or longer.

Liz Schofield, a support officer for the Halifax and Calder branch of the MS Society whose husband, Richard, suffers from multiple sclerosis, said it would leave families without transport as they were often the only cars in what are typically low-income households.

After going home, disabled people would have to reapply for another car, which can take up to 12 weeks, and find money for another advance payment, which was £6,000 in their case, she added.

She said: “It is shortsighted. The most vulnerable in society are always the ones paying the price.”

The branch is urging a rethink from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), which introduced the changes as part of wider benefits reforms.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “When someone is in hospital for 28 days or longer, we put their DLA on hold because their needs are being met by the NHS.

“To be fair to all people who receive DLA, this now applies to those people who choose to use their DLA mobility payment towards a Motability vehicle. We’d urge anyone who thinks they might be in hospital longer than 28 days to contact Motability.”

From the ‘Yorkshire Post’ 11th October 2013: http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/main-topics/general-news/disabled-fear-losing-cars-in-rule-changes-1-6136189