Concerns over green paper’s ‘chilling’ failure to address accessible housing crisis | DisabledGo News and Blog


The government has been criticised by disabled campaigners and the equality watchdog after its new social housing green paper failed to include a single mention of the accessible housing crisis.

Only three months ago, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) warned that more than 350,000 disabled people in England had unmet housing needs, with one-third of those in private rented accommodation and one-fifth of those in social housing living in unsuitable properties.

EHRC called in its report for the government to draw up a national strategy to ensure an adequate supply of new homes built to inclusive design standards.

But this week’s social housing green paper, described by communities secretary James Brokenshire as a “new deal” for social housing residents – those who pay rent at below market levels – does not mention accessible housing once.

The word “accessible” only appears in the 78-page document four times, on each occasion relating to the need for accessible information or complaints procedures.

The green paper does refer to supported housing, which it explains has a “key role to play” in supporting minority groups including people with mental ill-health, learning difficulties and other disabled people.

But there are no proposals to improve supported housing, other than referring to a U-turnannounced last week, in which ministers said that it would continue to be funded through the social security system rather than being devolved to local authorities as originally planned.

The green paper also mentions an ongoing review of the disabled facilities grant (DFG), which provides funding to make disabled people’s homes more accessible, for example by widening doorways or installing ramps, and which will see spending increase from £220 million in 2015-16 to £505 million in 2019-20.

But there are no new proposals for increasing the supply of accessible housing, or even requests for ideas on how the accessible housing crisis could be addressed.

Ellen Clifford, campaigns and policy manager for Inclusion London, said that reading the green paper and realising its failure to mention the crisis in accessible housing – despite the conclusions reached in the EHRC report – had been a “chilling” experience.

 

Source: Concerns over green paper’s ‘chilling’ failure to address accessible housing crisis | DisabledGo News and Blog

Supreme Court ruling ‘risks bringing in euthanasia by the back door’ | DisabledGo News and Blog


Disabled campaigners have warned that a Supreme Court ruling has removed a vital safeguard that protected the lives of brain-damaged patients who have been left unconscious.

The Supreme Court ruled this week that families and doctors will no longer have to seek a court order if they agree to end the life of a patient with a “prolonged disorder of consciousness” (PDOC)* by withdrawing food and fluids.

The court had been hearing the case of a man, Y, who never regained consciousness after a heart attack left him severely brain-damaged and in a permanent vegetative state (PVS).

Y had to be kept alive with water and liquid nutrition, but his family and doctors agreed that it was in his best interests for this to be withdrawn so he could be left to die.

The NHS trust that was treating him sought a declaration from the courts that they could do so without an order from the Court of Protection.

This was granted by the high court, but the official solicitor appealed to the Supreme Court, which this week unanimously dismissed the appeal.

Disabled campaigners have raised grave concerns about the judgment.

 

Source: Supreme Court ruling ‘risks bringing in euthanasia by the back door’ | DisabledGo News and Blog

Ground-breaking co-production report ‘creates blueprint for national change’ | DisabledGo News and Blog


A “ground-breaking” report on co-production has created a blueprint for disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) across the country to push for change from their own local authorities.

Disabled campaigners yesterday called for the report of the Hammersmith and Fulham Disabled People’s Commission to be shared with other local authorities and DPOs.

Speaking at its launch in west London, they said other councils should follow the example of Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham council, which commissioned the report.

Nothing About Disabled People Without Disabled People focuses on how to remove the barriers disabled people face in the London borough by embedding a culture of genuine co-production within the council.

Among the barriers that disabled residents told the commission about were disability hate crime; inaccessible shops and public transport; social isolation; a shortage of accessible housing; a lack of support for inclusive education; benefits cuts and poverty; and cuts to social care and support.

All the commission’s 10 members were disabled people, and their eight recommendations have each been accepted in full by the council.

The commission spent more than a year examining research, running surveys for residents, council staff and councillors, and holding meetings and public events.

Among their recommendations, they call for the council to work in genuine co-production with disabled residents; to introduce an accessible communication strategy to promote co-production across the borough; to produce a new co-production budget; and to develop a long-term strategy for funding DPOs in the borough.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, a user-led organisation which supports DPOs across the capital, said that none of the “same old consultations and listening exercises” carried out by other councils even came close to what was happening in Hammersmith and Fulham.

 

Source: Ground-breaking co-production report ‘creates blueprint for national change’ | DisabledGo News and Blog

Government’s social care funding failure ‘is terrible news for disabled people’ | DisabledGo News and Blog


Disabled campaigners have reacted with alarm to the government’s decision that it will not address the social care funding crisis until the end of next year, despite announcing billions of pounds a year extra for the NHS.

Despite saying in a speech that ministers “know we need to improve social care”, prime minister Theresa May said a new funding settlement for social care would not be announced until the next spending review, expected at the end of 2019.

The health and social care secretary, Jeremy Hunt, also told MPs that the government’s green paper on older people’s social care – which had been expected next month – would now be delayed until the autumn so it could be published at “around the same time” as a new 10-year plan for the NHS.

Hunt had earlier told the BBC that the government would also produce “a long-term plan for social care” but that ministers “can’t do all these things at the same time”.

The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) had not been able by 1pm today (Thursday) to explain whether its parallel piece of work on working-age disabled adults and social care had also been delayed until the autumn.

A DHSC spokeswoman had refused to comment when asked why the social care funding crisis was not being addressed at the same time as NHS funding.

May and Hunt announced an average real terms increase in NHS funding of 3.4 per cent a year from 2019-20 to 2023-24, which will see NHS England’s budget increase by £20.5 billion in real terms by 2023-24.

Although the government will not say how the NHS increase will be funded until the chancellor delivers his budget at the end of this year, the increase in funding was broadly welcomed.

But there was frustration among disabled commentators and campaigners that – yet again – ministers had failed to address the need for a major increase in social care funding.

 

Source: Government’s social care funding failure ‘is terrible news for disabled people’ | DisabledGo News and Blog

WOW Campaign is back, and pushing for a second House of Commons debate | DisabledGo News and Blog


Disabled campaigners are relaunching the WOW Campaign in a bid to secure a debate in the House of Commons on the need for the government to assess the financial damage caused to disabled people through its cuts and reforms.

Four years ago, nearly 105,000 people signed a petition launched by the WOW Campaign that called on the government to carry out a cumulative impact assessment (CIA) of the cuts.

That petition led to a debate in February 2014, the first time disabled people had secured a debate in the main chamber of the House of Commons on an agenda they had chosen themselves.

The WOW (War On Welfare) Campaign has been largely dormant for more than two years, but key figures now believe the time is right for a relaunch and a second WOW debate.

Activists are working to secure cross-party backing for another debate that would call on ministers to defend their refusal to calculate the overall impact of their cuts on disabled people.

This time, WOW is hoping to secure a debate through a request from supportive MPs to the backbench business committee, rather than through a petition to parliament.

Initial support has already come, they say, from Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell – who led the WOW debate in 2014 – Green MP Caroline Lucas, and Kate Green, Labour’s former shadow minister for disabled people, as well as SNP and Liberal Democrat MPs.

Green said she was “still at the stage of investigating possibilities”, including “discussing exactly what a debate would cover, for example would it be just on benefit cuts or wider, given the comprehensively damning assessment from the UN since the original petition”.

 

Source: WOW Campaign is back, and pushing for a second House of Commons debate | DisabledGo News and Blog

DWP figures suggest tens of thousands of PIP claims could have been decided on ‘unacceptable’ assessment reports | DisabledGo News and Blog


Tens of thousands of disabled people could have had their disability benefit claims decided on evidence from assessment reports that were of “unacceptable” poor quality, government figures suggest.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures suggest that civil servants may have been deciding many personal independence payment (PIP) claims based on information contained in assessment reports that were of such poor quality that they should have been sent back to DWP contractor Atos to “rework”.

DWP and Atos – which carries out PIP assessments on the government’s behalf – have both denied any such inference can be made from the figures passed two weeks ago by the minister for disabled people, Sarah Newton, to Labour MP Grahame Morris.

But disabled campaigners believe the figures raise fresh concerns about the quality of PIP assessment reports and how DWP decides claims, following years of mounting anger about the way the extra costs benefit is run since it was launched five years ago as a replacement for working-age disability living allowance.

Morris had asked DWP ministers how many PIP assessment reports in each of the last five years had been returned to Atos for “reworking” because they were “deemed unacceptable”.

In another question, he asked how many PIP assessments Atos had carried out every year.

 

Source: DWP figures suggest tens of thousands of PIP claims could have been decided on ‘unacceptable’ assessment reports | DisabledGo News and Blog

Access to Work cap announcement ‘does not go far enough’ | DisabledGo News and Blog


The government’s decision to loosen its restrictions on Access to Work (AtW) payments does not go far enough, and its “discriminatory” cap must be scrapped completely, according to disabled campaigners.

They spoke out after a partial U-turn on the AtW cap by work and pensions secretary Esther McVey.

The cap was first introduced in October 2015, and currently limits the annual support that individuals can be awarded under the scheme to £42,100 a year, or one-and-a-half times the average annual salary.

But McVey announced this week that the cap would now be increased to double the level of average earnings from next month.

This means that it will rise to £57,200 rather than £43,100.

 

Source: Access to Work cap announcement ‘does not go far enough’ | DisabledGo News and Blog

Benefit assessment report welcomed, but concern over ‘preventable harm’ failings | DisabledGo News and Blog


Disabled campaigners have welcomed a report by MPs on disability benefit assessments, which they say highlights “serious multiple failures”, but many believe it should have done more to highlight the serious “preventable harm” caused by the system.

The report by the Commons work and pensions committee concludes that there is a “pervasive culture of mistrust” around the personal independence payment (PIP) and employment and support allowance (ESA) assessment processes.

It calls for “urgent change” in the system, including the introduction of routine recording of face-to-face assessments, and says that the government’s contractors, Atos, Capita and Maximus, “have consistently failed to meet basic performance standards”.

It also says the government should send every claimant a copy of the assessment report prepared by the healthcare professional who assessed them, which it says would “introduce essential transparency into decision-making”.

And it calls for improved accessibility of the system “at every stage” and pays tribute to the thousands of claimants who shared evidence with the committee, a response which it says was “unprecedented” for a select committee inquiry.

 

Source: Benefit assessment report welcomed, but concern over ‘preventable harm’ failings | DisabledGo News and Blog

OBE for Access to Work boss is ‘further slap in the face’ for disabled people | DisabledGo News and Blog


Disabled campaigners have criticised the decision to award an OBE to the senior Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) civil servant responsible for delivering the much-criticised Access to Work (AtW) scheme.

Rilesh Jadeja, AtW’s national delivery manager, was recognised in the latest new year’s honours“for services to people with disabilities”, just two months after new research found the future of the scheme was in jeopardy because of “bureaucratic incompetence” and a cost-cutting drive to reduce people’s support packages.

The research, commissioned by Inclusion London, said that “shocking levels of delay, error, and the de-skilling of staff” within AtW were putting Deaf and disabled people’s jobs at risk.

AtW provides disabled people with funding to pay for some of the extra disability-related expenses they face at work – including travel, personal assistants or the use of BSL interpreters – reducing the costs organisations meet when taking on disabled employees.

The Inclusion London report said the scheme was “a cornerstone of the movement for equality and civil rights for Deaf and disabled people in the UK” but had been “beset with so much bureaucratic incompetence and obstructionism in recent ye

 

Source: OBE for Access to Work boss is ‘further slap in the face’ for disabled people | DisabledGo News and Blog

Watchdog’s report shows impact of years of ‘hostile’ cuts on disabled people : Disabled News Service


BY 

Families which include both a disabled adult and a disabled child have lost more than 13 per cent of their income through seven years of government cuts, according to a new report by the equality watchdog.

The report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has been seen as “a vindication” of years of campaigning by grassroots groups to persuade the government to carry out such an assessment of the overall impact of its cuts and reforms on disabled people.

Ministers have repeatedly ridiculed the idea of carrying out such a cumulative impact assessment (CIA), ever since disabled campaigners began calling for such research six years ago.

Both Pat’s Petition, and then the War On Welfare (WOW) petition campaign, demanded the government carry out a CIA, which led to two high-profile debates in the House of Commons.

The UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities added its voice to calls for a CIA in August, following similar calls by EHRC and even the government’s own benefits advice body, the social security advisory committee.

The EHRC report shows the cumulative impact on various groups – including disabled people – of changes introduced between 2010 and 2017 to income tax, national insurance, VAT, social security, tax credits, universal credit and the national minimum wage.

It shows that households that include a disabled adult will lose almost £2,500 a year, while families with both a disabled adult and a disabled child will face an annual loss of £5,500 by 2021-22 (more than 13 per cent of their income).

It also shows that the higher the support needs of the disabled members of the household, the greater the impact of the cuts.

Lone parents will be hit proportionally even harder, losing 15 per cent of their income.

The report – which details interim results of research conducted by Landman Economics and Aubergine Analysis for EHRC – also found that while “the poorest are set to lose nearly 10 per cent of their incomes, the richest will lose barely one per cent”.

Rick Burgess, one of the founders of the WOW campaign, which was signed by more than 100,000 people and led to a debate in the House of Commons in February 2014, said: “Vindication is nice, it’s just a shame it takes so many years, years in which thousands of disabled people were made destitute and many died.

“And note this changes nothing: we still live under an oppressive regime who lie and are not challenged on this by a largely supine media.

“I expect nothing from this government, they have shown persistently that the Conservative movement are institutionally disablist and hostile to the wellbeing of disabled people. The only solution is to remove them from power ASAP.”

Ellen Clifford, campaigns and policy manager for Inclusion London, said: “The initial findings hold no surprises for disabled people living with the impacts of welfare reform, but they do prove that far from ‘targeting resources at those most in need’, as the government has repeatedly claimed for the past seven years, it’s the most in need they’re taking the most from.

“The interim report shows that disabled adults with disabled children are the worst hit and that the more disabled you are the more you are adversely impacted.

“This report also disproves the government’s claim that a cumulative impact assessment would not be feasible to undertake.

“Its findings add weight to the idea that their reluctance was instead motivated by having something to hide.

“The EHRC do not have the same resources at their disposal as the government and we continue to urge the government to carry out a fuller CIA to assess the cumulative impact of cuts to social care support in addition to benefit changes.”

Carole Ford, a member of the current steering group of the WOW campaign, said the government’s “steadfast refusal” to carry out a CIA “demonstrates an understanding that such an assessment would reveal that the policy of ‘compassionate Conservatism’ was in no way compassionate”.

Pat Onions, founder of Pat’s Petition, which was signed by more than 60,000 people and led to a debate in Westminster Hall in July 2013, said the failure to carry out a CIA was “disastrous for disabled people”.

She said she “unreservedly” welcomed the EHRC report, and added: “The findings of the impact on disabled people are truly shocking.

“Will this government and future governments learn from this disastrous experience and act more responsibly in future?

“Will the covenant with disabled people now ensure that no massive changes are ever introduced again without a full impact assessment first?”

Kamran Mallick, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “The report is clear evidence that the government’s reforms have been having a massive negative effect, driving disabled people deeper into poverty when they already don’t have enough money to live on.

“We’re acutely struck by the report’s conclusion that the reforms will continue to cause ‘particularly adverse impacts on disabled families’. This can’t go on.”

David Isaac, EHRC’s chair, said: “The government can’t claim to be working for everyone if its policies actually make the most disadvantaged people in society financially worse off.

“We have encouraged the government to carry out this work for some time, but sadly they have refused.

“We have shown that it is possible to carry out cumulative impact assessments and we call on them to do this ahead of the 2018 budget.”

The commission also called on the government to “reconsider” existing cuts and reforms that have impacted on those who are “most disadvantaged”.

A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokeswoman refused to say whether it now accepted that CIAs can and should be carried out, or whether DWP accepted the EHRC figures.

But she said: “We carefully consider the equality impacts of individual policies on those with protected characteristics, including disability – in line with both our legal obligations and with our strong commitment to equality.

“HM Treasury publishes comprehensive distributional analysis* at the budget that is transparent and fair.

“The EHRC’s analysis does not paint a complete picture because it fails to take into account our successful jobs market or the steps we are taking to help people of all backgrounds get on in life, including expanding tax-free childcare, boosting apprenticeships and introducing the National Living Wage**.

“We are expecting to spend over £50 billion this year in benefits to support disabled people and people with health conditions.”

*These analyses have only measured how changes affect households of different incomes, and do not examine the impact on different groups, such as disabled people

**The EHRC report does take account of reforms to the national minimum wage

 

Source : Watchdog’s report shows impact of years of ‘hostile’ cuts on disabled people : Disabled News Service