Relief after court rejects latest assisted suicide legal bid and highlights law change dangers | DisabledGo News and Blog


Disabled activists have welcomed the court of appeal’s decision to reject the latest attempt to legalise assisted suicide.

They spoke out after three senior judges yesterday (Wednesday) rejected the judicial reviewbrought by Noel Conway, who is terminally-ill with motor neurone disease.

Conway had wanted the court to find that the Suicide Act – which makes it illegal to assist someone to take their own life – was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The high court had already dismissed the judicial review. Conway said he would now appeal to the Supreme Court.

The disabled people’s campaign group Not Dead Yet UK (NDY UK) had intervened in the court case, the first time it has taken such a step.

Phil Friend, from NDY UK, welcomed the court’s judgment, and said the group was “particularly pleased” that the court had recognised some of the concerns it had raised on the dangers of assisted suicide.

 

Source: Relief after court rejects latest assisted suicide legal bid and highlights law change dangers | DisabledGo News and Blog

Motability faces calls to increase grants or cut prices after MPs’ fierce criticism | DisabledGo News and Blog


Disabled activists have told Motability it would be “obscene” not to expand a fund that provides grants to customers with high support needs, after an inquiry heavily criticised the decision to pay the executive running the car scheme £1.7 million.

A report by the work and pensions and Treasury select committees says the £1.7 million paid in 2017 to Mike Betts, the chief executive of Motability Operations, was “totally unacceptable” when the company received “substantial and unique support” from the government.

No other vehicle leasing company can compete with Motability because of the public funding it receives through the mobility allowances of its customers – paid directly from the Department for Work and Pensions – and the £700 million a year it receives in tax exemptions, says the report.

The report also says that the level of reserves held by Motability Operations – at £2.4 billion – is “out of proportion to the risks it faces” and it calls on the company to cut its prices or make “very substantially higher charitable donations”.

It concludes that it is “difficult to square the high levels of executive pay and significant financial reserves at Motability Operations, the company that runs the scheme, with its charitable objectives and the wider context of pressures on welfare expenditure.

“Motability badly needs a new roadmap for how it manages the scheme’s finances.”

The National Audit Office (NAO) is now set to carry out an inquiry into the way the scheme is run.

The company makes donations every year to Motability*, the charity that oversees its work, and to the Motability Tenth Anniversary Trust, a charity which provides grants to existing and prospective members of the scheme.

Since 2011, the report says, Motability Operations has donated £345 million to Motability and the trust, about a quarter of the £1.4 billion it generated in profits, while its reserves have grown from £1.1 billion to £2.4 billion.

Source: Motability faces calls to increase grants or cut prices after MPs’ fierce criticism | DisabledGo News and Blog

Anger over Royal Society’s ‘love fest for euthanasia’ conference | DisabledGo News and Blog


Disabled activists have attacked the Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) for hosting a conference on “choice at the end of life” that was little more than a “love fest for euthanasia”.

RSM said before the event that the conference would “question whether or not assisted dying is complementary or contradictory to the notion of person-centred care”.

But speakers in favour of legalising assisted suicide far outnumbered those who opposed a change in the law.

One of those behind the conference, Professor Roger Kirby, who chairs RSM’s academic board, told the audience that the idea for organising it came to him after reading an article written by the husband of a terminally-ill woman who travelled to the Dignitas clinic in Switzerland to take her own life.

The other senior medical figure who helped organise the event, he said, was Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), whose terminally-ill husband, Professor Paul Cosford, told the conference that he was in favour of a change in the law.

Professor Cosford, who has incurable cancer, and is patient and medical director for Public Health England, suggested that having choice at the end of life should include the option of an assisted suicide.

He told the conference: “I cannot predict how I will die but I can focus on living well now if I know that I would have some kind of control at the time if I need it.”

He added: “To enable choice at the end of life, taking account of individual care needs, may well need a change in approach.

“I do think that might include [the option of] assisted dying.”

He was followed by two further speakers who were in favour of legalisation: Tony Wicks, whose wife ended her life at Dignitas; and Julie Smith, whose husband had been prevented from travelling to Switzerland to end his life at the clinic.

The first three speakers were all supportive of legalising assisted suicide, while the fourth, an assistant coroner, expressed no opinion.

The next speaker was Dr Catherine Sonquist Forest, a strong advocate of legalisation, who takes part in the practice of assisted suicide in California – where it is called “medical aid-in-dying” – where it was legalised in June 2016.

The conference did not hear from an opponent of legalisation until the sixth speaker, Juliet Marlow, from Not Dead Yet UK (NDY UK), who had only been added to the list of speakers after NDY UK raised concerns at not being invited to speak at the event.

 

Source: Anger over Royal Society’s ‘love fest for euthanasia’ conference | DisabledGo News and Blog

Summit hears calls on direct action, assessment boycotts and hate crime : DisabledGo News


A new handbook on direct action, a national day of action on inclusive education, and a call for healthcare professionals to boycott disability benefit assessments were among campaign ideas suggested by disabled activists at a national conference.

The National Disabled People’s Summit saw up to 200 Deaf and disabled activists discussing ways to coordinate the fight against austerity and “reinvigorate” the disabled people’s movement.

Sean McGovern, co-chair of the TUC’s disabled workers’ committee, who chaired the event, said disabled people had not “passively” accepted the attack on their rights and services over the last nine years.

He told the conference that the aim of the event was to bring together Deaf and disabled people from the trade union movement, Deaf and disabled people’s organisations, and grassroots campaigns to “find ways to better pool our knowledge and experiences” and organise joint campaigning.

He said: “We are trying to get together to build our resources together… and hopefully stop fighting battles separately.”

A key part of the event saw disabled people take part in workshops aimed at producing ideas for future campaigning across areas such as accessible transport, inclusive education, independent living and social security.

Other workshops discussed how to develop those campaigns, for example through direct action and protests, trade union organising, and using the law and media.

The conference, at the headquarters of the National Education Union in central London, was funded by unions, and co-organised by the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance.

Among the ideas suggested were the need for a national strategy and set of principles describing the aims of the disabled people’s movement, and for a new handbook for direct action protests, which would take leads from the activists’ handbook developed by the Disabled People’s Direct Action Network (DAN) and the activist toolkit used by the US disabled people’s grassroots group ADAPT.

The conference heard that there was a need to “spread protest and direct action everywhere”.

Other workshops suggested the need for a national education service that is “inclusive from the top to the bottom”, and called for a national day of action that highlights both the “good things that are happening” in inclusive education and the “threats” it is facing.

On independent living, fears were raised about the reinstitutionalisation of disabled people, particularly concerns about the number of people with learning difficulties being forced into long-stay private hospitals.

There were also calls for a legal right to independent living through a free national independent living service, paid for from general taxation, and for “real choice and control, where disabled people are in control and not professionals or social workers”.

On accessible transport, ideas for campaigns included a focus on the importance of disabled passengers being able to “turn up and go”, which the summit heard was “gradually being phased out” by train companies.

On mental health, there was a call for recognition that all people “contribute to society even if not contributing to profit”, for an emphasis on the “social causes of mental distress”, and for unions “to be able to represent people both working and not working and recognise us all as members of the working class”.

Among the campaign ideas on social security was a challenge to nurses and doctors who are members of the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Association, and who carry out disability benefit assessments, to “down tools and not take part” in such testing for ethical reasons.

There were also objections to Labour’s “pause and fix” policy position on universal credit, with activists demanding instead that the line on the government’s new working-age benefits system should be to “stop and scrap” it.

On disability hate crime, there were calls for more to be done to challenge and report such offences and to pursue them with the authorities “because we need charges, convictions and sentencing in order to make people confident to go down this path”.

There was also a call to “find allies in the police, Crown Prosecution Service and local authorities and elsewhere and work with them”, and to develop allies and alliances across different equality strands and build on their past successes, for example in combatting race hate crime.

Other workshops produced calls for international solidarity with disabled migrants and refugees and disabled people facing starvation in other countries; and the need for better training for union representatives, so they can provide improved support for disabled employees.

There was a recognition that cuts to jobs and services mean people are “having to work harder and faster in much more difficult conditions”; a call for regular disability arts protests; and for attention to be paid to the barriers faced by disabled people who are “intersectional”, such as black disabled women, or gay disabled men.

And there was a call for a new hub where disabled people and their organisations could share information and resources, for example on benefit assessments and appeals, as a way of taking action to “increase our knowledge of our rights, but equally importantly how we use that knowledge in our lives”, such as in day-to-day communication with social workers or service-providers or in “big strategic legal action cases”.

Ideas that came out of the workshops will now be collated and worked into a report to be published in the next few months.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

 

Source : Summit hears calls on direct action, assessment boycotts and hate crime : DisabledGo News

Concerns over criteria for ‘fitness for work’ reassessment exemptions | DisabledGo News and Blog


Disabled campaigners have criticised new Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) rules that explain which benefit claimants will no longer have to be repeatedly put through the much-criticised “fitness for work” test. DWP announced last month, on the eve of the Conservative party conference in Manchester, that some claimants in the support group of employment and support allowance (ESA) – and the equivalent universal credit group – would no longer need to attend “routine reassessments”. Only those with “the most severe and lifelong health conditions or disabilities” will be exempt from reassessments, and they will be told of their exemption when they receive the results of their next work capability assessment (WCA), the test which assesses ESA eligibility. Although DWP declined to release the eligibility criteria for exemptions, the guidelines have now been published by Disability Rights UK, one of the disability organisations that took part in discussions with the government as it

Source: Concerns over criteria for ‘fitness for work’ reassessment exemptions | DisabledGo News and Blog

DWP whistleblower from ESA helpline exposes ‘obscene’ system | DisabledGo News and Blog


A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) whistleblower has described how a “mismanaged” and under-funded social security system is leaving many disability benefit claimants penniless and helpless. George* works on DWP’s employment and support allowance (ESA) helpline and has told Disability News Service (DNS) that the experience has left him shocked and frustrated at the deeply flawed system. And he also says he believes – although he does not have direct evidence of this – that DWP decision-makers do have targets for the proportion of claimants that they need to find “fit for work”, and so ineligible for ESA. A colleague in another part of DWP, who works with a decision-maker, told him that this member of staff “hates his job” because he has to “disallow people” and had been “struggling to hit his disallowance targets”. Although DNS has been unable to verify this claim, disabled activists have been warning for years that they believe DWP decision-makers, and the healthcare

Source: DWP whistleblower from ESA helpline exposes ‘obscene’ system | DisabledGo News and Blog

‘Fitness for work’ test has led to deterioration in mental health, say researchers | DisabledGo News and Blog


Disabled activists have welcomed “timely” new research that concludes that the government’s “fitness for work” process has caused a deterioration in many people’s mental health which they have failed to recover from, and has even led to thoughts of suicide.

The research, Mental Health And Unemployment In Scotland, was carried out by academics at Scotland’s Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh Napier universities*.

Researchers spoke in-depth to 30 people across Scotland with mental health conditions who had experienced the work capability assessment (WCA) system, as well as staff from advice and advocacy organisations.

They concluded that the assessors, employed by the US outsourcing company Maximus, “do not appear to have appropriate expertise in mental health”.

And they added: “The WCA experience for many, caused a deterioration in people’s mental health which individuals did not recover from.

“In the worst cases, the WCA experience led to thoughts of suicide.”

Professor Abigail Marks, one of the report’s authors, said their research showed that WCAs were “fundamentally discriminatory to people with mental health conditions”.

The research emerged as disabled people’s organisations gave evidence this week to the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities about the UK government’s failure to implement the UN disability convention.

Source: ‘Fitness for work’ test has led to deterioration in mental health, say researchers | DisabledGo News and Blog

‘Meagre’ extra social care funding ‘will do nothing to solve crisis’ | DisabledGo News and Blog


“Meagre” new funding announced by the government will do nothing to solve the “full-blown social care crisis”, disabled campaigners have warned. They spoke out after the government announced that it would ring-fence an extra £240 million for councils to spend on adult social care next year, as well as allowing local authorities to bring forward council tax increases that were already set to raise further ring-fenced social care funding. But user-led groups, disabled activists, disability charities and cross-party politicians say the extra funding will be inadequate for dealing with the crisis. The announcement last week by communities and local government secretary Sajid Javid will mean councils can raise council tax by up to three per cent in both 2017-18 (an extra £208 million) and 2018-19 (an extra £444 million), instead of two per cent in each of the next three years. He also announced that £240 million from changes to what his department calls the New Homes Bonus – rewarding

Source: ‘Meagre’ extra social care funding ‘will do nothing to solve crisis’ | DisabledGo News and Blog