Tag Archive | PIP

We’re a wealthy country… money’s no object…

FloodingI’m supposed to be writing an important human rights report, but the political messages around today have tempted me to blog – for the first time since the turn of the year, when my anger about poverty spilled into a much less measured blog than usual. My anger has now got the better of me again…

First of all I must say, very clearly, that flooding is terrible for those affected and my heart goes out to all those who have experienced the horror of dirty, sewage-contaminated water flowing through their homes. This blog is not directed against flood victims, but is a comment on the political message and reality behind the Prime Minister’s promises.

The floods have reached the home counties. Beautiful homes next to the River Thames are awash. This is archetypal middle England. Confirmed Tory voters are now being affected by the floods which have ravaged the West Country and other areas for many weeks. Strangely, now that the water is affecting the homes of the “middle classes”, money is suddenly no object. Cameron even says “we’re a wealthy country”. He should choose his words with care….

Since the 2010 election we’ve been told that “difficult decisions have to be made” – especially when it comes to social security for the poorest in our communities, those who are ill or disabled and unable to work or are unattractive to potential employers. We were been told the welfare bill had got out of hand – even before DLA, the benefit that started in 1992 (and isn’t perfect, but what is?), had worked its way through the population to steady state, we were told it cost too much. Local authorities have had massive reductions to their budgets – and as the lion’s share of non-ring-fenced LA spending goes on adult social care, it’s not hard to see why this has led to a dramatic reduction in the number of disabled and older people receiving support. We can’t even afford to support couples who live in social housing, where one partner is providing round the clock care for the other but needs a bedroom to sleep in. Carers UK have recently published a report telling the devastating stories of family carers trying to balance caring responsibilities and work with insufficient financial and other support; for those providing 24/7 care, the carer’s allowance pays the princely sum of 36 pence per hour….

There is no doubt that people have been, and are, suffering enormously as support and resources are stripped away from those most in need of help. People are having to choose between heating their homes and eating properly, mothers are choosing not to eat to ensure they can feed their children, families are finding themselves unable to make ends meet in the school holidays when their children don’t get free school meals. There isn’t enough money to enable everyone to have the basics; that’s how poor our country is. You get the picture. “We’re all in it together” – but those who are obliged to rely more on public services and support are clearly “in it” much more than those able to be more self-reliant.

This quiet crisis – exemplified, in a sense, by a terrifying story in the New Statesman today about a recent increase in the death rate of older people – only hits the news if some gobshite (sorry!) like Katie Hopkins (who I’ve nicknamed #walkingtabloid) says something outrageous. For months on end we’ve been waiting for the BBC to report properly what’s happening on the ground. Suffering, what suffering? Don’t know what you’re talking about. Poor people, really poor, in the UK today? Don’t believe it. They clearly can’t manage their money properly (er, what money??).

This dreadful suffering, desperate people waiting to hear whether they can get enough money to live on, is the price we thought we were paying for the financial “crisis”. Like a lone voice, I’ve contributed to the comment pages on right-wing articles, saying “but the UK is a wealthy country. We do have money”. Superior middle-class types, who have no concept of how quickly their lives could spiral downwards following a catastrophic injury or illness, have patronised me, explaining, as if to a two year-old, that the country doesn’t have money, only individuals do; how could I be so naive?!

So, here we are. Disabled people clearly don’t matter. Poor people clearly don’t matter. Older people matter a bit, but not enough to ensure social care is properly funded. But suddenly, after lots of people and communities have been suffering from dreadful flooding for many weeks, the Thames breaks its banks. As if by magic, the Prime Minister tells us “Money is no object. We are a wealthy country”. I feel sick.

When disabled people can’t get suitable housing, we have no money.

When we need accessible public transport, we have no money.

When poor families can’t afford both food and heating, we have no money.

When people who appeal an incorrect “fit for work” decision need money to live on while their decision is “reconsidered”, we have no money.

When those who care 24/7 for family members are penalised financially, simply to remain in their homes, we have no money.

When A & E departments are under severe strain and sick people are waiting hours even to get into the hospital, we have no money.

BUT, when homes in middle England are flooded, money’s no object and we’re suddenly a wealthy country. Sorry, but as I said, I feel sick :(

Now we know. The shrinking of the welfare state is ideological. We ARE a wealthy country, and we need to make the right choices in 2015. Flooding is awful – but extreme poverty, isolation, freezing cold homes and hunger are as well.

**********************

PS: Every time I see some news, my heart breaks for all those whose homes, whose private spaces, are ravaged by dirty, sewage-contaminated water and/or destructive winds. And I know that many of those who live near the Thames are ordinary people with ordinary jobs; not that different from those living in areas that have been flooded since December. Some of those who’ve read my blog have deduced I don’t care; I do. Flooding is one thing, politics is another – but disability, ill-health or poverty will have a major impact on the ability of many to pick up and start again.

These issues are neither simple nor – in the case of the weather – under the control of our leaders. But what is under our leaders’ control is their attitude and their response to both flooding and other disasters that befall our fellow citizens, whether that be a catastrophic injury, a long term illness, unemployment or anything else. I want our leaders to help – not just those who are flooded, but those who were struggling before the weather hit and are still struggling – or struggling even more due to the impact of the weather.

And finally, many will disagree with the points I’ve made. But the above post was written while I was watching Cameron on the TV, declaring that we are now a wealthy country and money is no object…. and I was immediately struck by the sharp contrast with the message the Government gives when it wants to remove support from those who need it most (flooding aside, of course; I DO NOT begrudge help going to those who have suffered flooding). I wasn’t seeking to pronounce on the state of the nation’s finances; I don’t have the expertise for that!!

In its disability policy, the Government wants to “have its cake and eat it”

This morning the Court of Appeal quashed the decision of the High Court that the Government acted lawfully in deciding to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which provides funding for independent living for around 19,000 disabled people with the highest support needs. This has some significance for me because in the first article I ever wrote for the Guardian  I explained how adequate, self-directed social care support, provided by local authorities and/or the ILF, can enable disabled people to live active and fulfilling lives, engaging in paid work and participating fully in our communities, and how this is at risk due to cuts to social care funding and the proposed closure of the ILF. Continue reading

The PIP 20 metre rule remains intact

Despite hundreds of consultation responses explaining the devastating impact on people with significant walking difficulties of using 20 metres as the benchmark distance for eligibility for the enhanced mobility component of PIP* and therefore the Motability scheme, the Government has decided, as we suspected they would, to keep the assessment criteria the same. Whilst this is obviously a disappointment, there are several interesting features of the Government’s response to the consultation worth highlighting (although it’s impossible to unpack the whole document in one article). Continue reading

Receiving the O A Denly Memorial Award 2013

O A Denly Award trophy

The Trophy

If you can’t blow your own trumpet on your own blog, where can you?! You’ve been warned…. This has now been reported in our local Kingston press.

Last night I attended the annual Disabled Motoring UK Awards Evening at the Heritage Motor Museum in Warwickshire, where I had the honour of being presented with the O A Denly Memorial Award for my campaigning work on the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), which is replacing Disability Living Allowance (DLA).

The O A Denly Memorial Award is sponsored by Unity Law and I was presented with my award by Lucy Angus, Trainee Solicitor. This is what I said after the presentation: Continue reading

DWP announces further consultation on PIP

Reblogged from http://wearespartacus.org.uk/dwp-announces-further-consultation-on-pip/

Note: Guardian article now also available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jun/18/fight-for-disabled-people-mobility

Graphic depicting someone walking with a crutchThis is the press release I’ve put out today on the DWP’s announcement of a new consultation on the mobility component of PIP:

Disability campaigners welcome today’s announcement that the Government will re-consult on the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment, which replaces Disability Living Allowance for working age disabled adults. Organisations and individuals have been campaigning vigorously on this issue since we were shocked to hear, in December last year, that the walking distance criteria for the mobility component, and therefore for assistance from the Motability scheme, had been tightened from 50 metres to 20 metres. Continue reading

High Court gives green light to PIP legal challenge

The High Court has today granted permission for a full hearing of the judicial review challenge to the government’s introduction of more stringent qualifying criteria for mobility benefit.

Steven Sumpter can only walk a few metres with a stick and is otherwise dependent on a wheelchair. He was assessed as eligible for the high rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) last year and has used this to lease a Motability car. Along with thousands of others, he fears that he may lose this benefit under the new Regulations (1).  Under the DLA scheme, a person is entitled to the higher rate if they are ‘unable or virtually unable to walk’. Usually claimants are considered to be virtually unable to walk if they cannot walk more than 50m. Under the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) scheme, the relevant distance is reduced to 20m.

Karen Ashton from Public Law Solicitors who represents Mr Sumpter said:

“I am very pleased that the court has found that this case deserves a full hearing.  The higher rate of mobility benefit can make an extraordinary difference to a disabled person’s life.  But the Government failed to mention the reduction to 20m in their consultations and so those who might be affected did not have the chance to put their case and explain how devastating the consequences will be.” Continue reading

Judicial review issued against PIP 20 metre criteria

For a growing list of links to media and blog posts, see http://wearespartacus.org.uk/pip/

Lawyers have announced that they are taking legal action against the Government on behalf of three disabled clients who are challenging the decision by Ian Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, to bring in more stringent measures to qualify for mobility benefit. Continue reading

Call to arms – challenging PIP regulations

Please note: our lawyers have informed us that they have a sufficient number of candidates to take part in the legal challenge and are therefore no longer looking for anyone else. However, if the case is successful, all those who may be affected by the reduction of the walking distance criteria from 50m to 20m will benefit.

On Tuesday 5 February, the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013 were passed by the House of Commons Eleventh Delegated Legislation Committee (audio recording). The debate, transcribed at http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmgeneral/deleg11/130205/130205s01.htm, lasted just a little over an hour, very few members of the committee contributed and all voted along party lines. And that was it. Regulations which determine the independence and well-being of almost 2 million disabled people were dealt with quickly and quietly, like some routine to be got out of the way. Continue reading

PIP: What have we won?

Lawyer in courtI’m beyond exhausted. Since 13 December, when the Social Security (Personal Independence Payment) Regulations 2013 were tabled, I’ve barely stopped. I’m passionate about all ill-advised and incompetent welfare changes that affect disabled and sick people, but I confess I’m even more passionate about this one, as it affects me. I hope that doesn’t shock you; we’re all more motivated by issues that affect us personally, it’s only human.

Once we’d analysed the regulations, it was clear there was some reason to rejoice, but also much to concern us. The positive news was that the Government has decided on a longer, phased implementation period, such that DLA claimants with indefinite awards won’t have to apply for PIP until October 2015 and thereafter – after the next general election. This is obviously a political stunt, dressed up as ‘listening’; it’s clear the Coalition parties don’t want media reports of hundreds of thousands of disabled people losing their Motability vehicles on their watch, so what better idea than to dump it onto the next Government? After all, the likelihood of Labour being willing and able to reform PIP in five short months if they win the election in May 2015 has to be slim. And anyway, that’s of no comfort to the 30% of DLA claimants on time-limited awards who expect to have to apply for PIP before 2015. Continue reading

How welfare reform will take away my independence (video)

The Government wants to take away my wheelchair accessible vehicle. Oh, they haven’t told me personally, of course, they don’t need to. They’ve just decided that if I can walk more than 20 metres (which they may decide I can, as I still walk around my home) I no longer have need of it, and the independence it represents. The detail is explained in my last post: http://janeyoung.me.uk/2012/12/14/well-over-100000-to-lose-motability-vehicles-under-draconian-new-rules/

This week I’m using my vehicle to go to stay with a friend in Kent for a couple of days, just for a bit of a break. It’s rather complicated, because I have to take large specially-made supports to shape the bed, my specialist pressure-relieving mattress, oxygen cylinders and a veritable pharmacy of medication, not forgetting plenty of morphine. But the important thing is, I can go; and I can also go to hospital appointments, support my elderly mother and her disabled neighbour, do voluntary work, go shopping etc. But I can only make these journeys because I have my wheelchair accessible vehicle, part-funded by Government grant.

I’ve made a video to show you what I mean. But it’s not just about me, it’s about all the others who have similar mobility needs to mine. As you watch the demonstration, please think about them too. As Benjamin Franklin said:

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are”

Go to http://wearespartacus.org.uk/pip-emergency-act-now/ to find out how you can help.