The Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) Universal Credit welfare reform has been controversial. And now a group of disabled people is taking the fight against it right to the heart of parliament.
“Grave” and “systematic” human rights violations
Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) is at the forefront of the disability rights movement in the UK. As well as high-profile protests, legal actions, and campaigns, the group was also instrumental in securing a report from the UN. The report accused successive Conservative-led governments of “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights, creating a “human catastrophe”.
But now, the group has turned its attention to Universal Credit, the new welfare payment from the DWP.
It had previously organised a national day of action on Thursday 1 March against the reform, but due to the severe weather in the UK, the planned protest at parliament was
It is shameful, disgusting and deplorable that Department for Work and Pensions minister Ms Newton is imitating an Ostrich, the evidence is there but if you are not prepared to look then you will not see it.
It is “shameful” and “unsubstantiated” to claim benefit cuts have caused suicides, a Tory minister declared today. Sarah Newton accused critics of “deliberately misusing data” to say Tory welfare reforms are driving people to death. Activists such as the Black Triangle Campaign have spent years…
A good question for in the Tories austerity campaign there appears to be no room for manoeuvre to allow any reasonable adjustments for disabled people.
Will any existing European Union legislation be maintained into UK law and furthermore will EU legislation coming through be also included. Without these current and forthcoming EU legislations the outlook for disabled people will be even more depressing and unequal as it is already.
All of the UK needs to unify behind ensuring that disabled people now and after Brexit are not abandoned by this Tory Government, as you may also become disabled within your lifetime. Think of others like you would for yourself and your own family, otherwise the life for disabled will be far worse than it is now and now is not as good as it should be.
Over the past seven years, cuts to benefits, social care, the legal system and local authority funding have effectively put decades of slow, painful progress into reverse.
Cuts in social care funding have made a mockery of would-be progressive policies on personal budgets and direct payments. Cuts in day services and restrictions on access to freedom passes have marooned many disabled people behind their four walls.
We have also seen disabled students’ allowances cut; a reduction in funding of Access To Work, which made it possible for many disabled people to get into and stay in work; and greatly increased reporting of disability hate crime – including incidents against disabled children.
Disabled people of working age won’t be addressed in the green paper and we can get some idea of what’s in ministerial minds from a recent social care debate in the House of Commons. Social care minister Jackie Doyle-Price repeatedly emphasised the part yet more welfare reform will play in the government’s future thinking for this group.
Over the past seven years, the government has not so much increasingly failed to secure disability rights under the UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities as appeared to attack those very rights.
It is becoming increasingly difficult not to associate such catastrophic policies with something deeper, something more visceral. We have to ask why does this government and its recent predecessors seem so bent on harassing disabled people? Is there something about us they just can’t stomach?
The present government particularly has made cuts to social care and reforms to welfare benefits that – without exaggeration – can be said to have damaged and spoiled the lives of millions. We know that thousands of disabled people live in fear of the brown envelope through the door; that some have even starved to death after their benefits have been cut.
These are not isolated cases. They affect all groups: people with learning difficulties; people who are dying; those with major physical and sensory impairments; with painful and enervating long term conditions; with the most severe mental health problems.
Modern governments talk a lot about “evidence-based policy”, but evidence has highlighted the cruel, draconian effects of these social polices.
We need to look way beyond ideological discussions about whether or not policy is “fit for purpose”. Instead, we must ask where this apparent underlying loathing of large groups of people comes from. What is there about us as disabled people that prompts such extreme measures?
Of course we know that governments like ours clutch at a different rationale. Their attacks are not on disabled people per se, they say, but those pretending to be disabled, the “shirking” rather than the “striving” disabled people.
Sadly, it is disabled people indiscriminately – and those close to them – who are suffering appallingly through these measures, not some imagined cohort of con-people or impersonators.
The current direction of travel of social care and welfare reform doesn’t merely represent harsh policy or even reactionary ideology. Instead it is a deliberately prejudiced, vicious attack on a significant minority of the population.
Governments and policymakers haven’t caught up with the reality that medical advances and social and cultural changes mean that the nature of who we are as a population has changed. There are now many more disabled people. Making our lives increasingly difficult may kill some of us, but it won’t seriously change the maths.
The failure of policymakers is that so many disabled people still face appalling and increasing barriers to employment, education, training, family and social life. It’s not getting rid of us that welfare reform should be about, but about challenging and ending these attitudinal, institutional and cultural barriers. And to do this, this government needs to start very firmly with challenging itself and its ministers.
Peter Beresford is emeritus professor of social policy at Brunel University London, professor of citizen participation at Essex University and co-chair of Shaping Our Lives
It’s a sad indictment of our society that in the run up to Christmas, many people feel the need to focus their charitable efforts on ensuring that children in the UK do not go hungry.
The cumulative impact of austerity and the relentless rollout of Universal Credit mean that many children could face a Christmas which is Dickensian, in all the wrong ways.
Yet some people see Victorian times not as an era from which we have thankfully progressed, but as a source of inspiration as to how we can tackle the problems we face today.
In a recent article by Simon Lofthouse on the Tory Workers website, Modern Philanthropy, A Second Victorian Age of Altruism, philanthropy was advocated as, “the acceptable form of wealth distribution for the 21st Century; the radical free market response to today’s challenges.” The author claimed that, “In Victorian times, the wealthy used philanthropy very…
John Pring Disability News Service 14th September 2017
About 900,000 disabled people will see their weekly incomes fall by at least £50 a week by 2020, because of the continuing impact of the government’s welfare reforms, according to new research.
The research by the consultancy Policy in Practice found that, of 7.2 million working-age, low-income households, more than two-fifths of those containing a working-age disabled person would lose at least £50 a week, compared with November 2016.
The report, The Cumulative Impact Of Welfare Reform: A National Picture, says the impact of measures introduced after November 2016 will see the average low-income household containing a working-age disabled person lose £51.47 a week by 2020, compared with an average loss of £35.82 for households not containing a disabled person.
This will come on top of an average weekly loss of more than £20 for low-income households containing a working-age disabled person as a result of welfare reforms introduced pre-November 2016 – such as the benefit cap, cuts to housing benefit and the bedroom tax – although this figure does not take account of rising living costs.
Senior disabled figures in the Liberal Democrats have spoken of their frustration that the party is not set to debate key issues of concern to disabled people at its annual conference next month. Disability News Service (DNS) contacted key disabled party members after an analysis of the party’s conference agenda and directory showed there was currently not a single debate or fringe event devoted to disability-related issues. There is nothing scheduled to discuss welfare reform, the social care funding crisis, the shortage of accessible housing, the highly topical problems facing accessible public transport, or the UN’s public examination in Geneva of the UK government’s alleged breaches of the UN disability convention, which took place yesterday and today (Thursday). Although many fringe events are organised by groups unconnected to the Liberal Democrats, not one of them is set to address disability-related issues such as welfare reform, social care or access to the built environment
A disabled people’s organisation (DPO) has intervened in a “hugely significant” court of appeal hearing that is set to decide how far the government’s Care Act protects disabled people’s independent living and well-being.
Inclusion London is the first DPO to intervene in a case involving the “flagship” Care Act 2014, while it will also be the first such case to be heard by the court of appeal.
To highlight the importance of the case, Inclusion London will hold a vigil outside the Royal Courts of Justice on Thursday (17 August), from 9.15am, to show the three judges the impact the case will have on disabled people’s lives.
The case has been brought by Luke Davey, a disabled person with high support needs, whose support package was “slashed” after the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) in June 2015.
He lost his high court case earlier this year, after seeking a judicial review of Oxfordshire County Council’s decision to cut his support from £1,651 to £950 a week from May last year.
The council had decided both to increase the number of hours Davey spent without the support of his personal assistants (PAs), and reduce the rates of pay of his PAs.
His lawyers are now arguing that the care plan drawn up by the council should be quashed, while it should draft a new plan that takes into account the risks its decision poses to Davey’s wellbeing.
They will argue that the council is breaching the Care Act by suggesting that he can rely on volunteers or unpaid family carers if he wants to go out for longer than three hours at a time.
And they will argue that the council should have seriously considered the risk to Davey’s wellbeing if his long-established team of PAs broke up.
A disabled women says she was left to sit in her own urine for nearly two hours after her plight was ignored by a healthcare professional carrying out a disability benefit assessment.
Maria Lane has spoken up about the “devastating” experience she endured during her personal independence payment (PIP) assessment, in the hope that other disabled people will not have to go through similar experiences.
She told – and showed – the assessor just 10 minutes into the assessment that she had had an accident and had emptied her bladder into her incontinence pad, and that urine was leaking into her trousers.
But she said the female assessor – who works for the government contractor Atos – “looked for a second at the pad” and then continued typing.
Atos has now launched an investigation.
For nearly two hours, she was forced to continue answering questions, with the assessor warning her whenever she failed to do so that if she did not respond she would have to return for another assessment.
Maria Lane has a number of long-term health conditions, including diabetes, osteoarthritis – which affects all of her joints and has spread into her spine – sciatica, a slipped disc, high blood pressure, and depression.
She is waiting for a major operation on her bladder, because of severe incontinence which means she has to wear pads permanently.
Ministers have been accused of ignoring a public consultation and ploughing ahead with plans that will make their “fitness for work” testing regime even more stressful and unfair for sick and disabled people.
A presentation delivered by two senior Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) civil servants earlier this month suggests that ministers have decided – as many disabled activists feared after the publication of last year’s green paper – to introduce new benefit sanctions for sick and disabled people with the highest support needs.
The presentation at a DWP “Operational Stakeholder Engagement Forum” appears to confirm that the government had decided how it would reform the system of out-of-work disability benefits before its “consultation” process had finished on 17 February.
The government had claimed that it wanted to make the work capability assessment (WCA) less of an ordeal for claimants, with work and pensions secretary Damian Green telling last October’s Conservative party conference he wanted to support those disabled people who cannot work, and “sweep away unnecessary stress and bureaucracy which weighs them down”.
But slides from the presentation appear to show that his new regime will be even harsher, and that many employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants with the highest support needs and barriers to work will for the first time face having their benefits sanctioned if they do not co-operate with the regime.
The slides show DWP has already begun introducing a compulsory, face-to-face “health and work conversation” (HWC) with a jobcentre work coach that will apply to nearly all new claimants of ESA, weeks or even months before they go through the WCA process to decide whether they are not fit for work and eligible for the benefit.