Tag Archive | PIP

Dignity and Opportunity for All – report published!

Report coverDignity and Opportunity for All:
Securing the rights of disabled people in the austerity era

This report I’ve helped to write for Just Fair has now been published. It analyses the extent to which the UK is meeting its obligations to realise the following rights in relation to disabled people, as set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD):

  • The right to independent living (UNCRPD Article 19)
  • The right to work (ICESCR Article 6 and UNCRPD Article 27)
  • The right to fair and just conditions of employment (ICESCR Article 7 and UNCRPD Article 27)
  • The right to social security (ICESCR Article 9)
  • The right to social protection (UNCRPD Article 28)
  • The right to an adequate standard of living (ICESCR Article 11 and UNCRPD Article 28)

Three versions of the report are available on the Just Fair website

  • The full version
  • An easy read version
  • A summary version

The full report rigorously examines the available evidence in the light of the obligations contained within ICESCR and UNCRPD, and also draws on the experience of disabled people. Key quotes from the report include the following:

The right to independent living

“There is prima facie evidence that [the local housing allowance and the size criteria in social housing] are retrogressive, threatening disabled people’s occupation of accessible and affordable housing to enable them to live independently, exercising their right to choose where they live on an equal basis with others.”

“…. when evaluating the Government’s final decision to proceed with the closure of the [Independent Living Fund]… any change in support that threatens fund users’ enjoyment of the right to independent living would constitute impermissible retrogression in relation to UNCRPD Article 19.”

“Given the critical role of social care services in facilitating independent living, we recommend that the Government ensures sufficient investment is directed towards ensuring that disabled people receive the support they need to exercise their right to independent living.”

“Despite the complexity and limitations of cumulative impact assessments, the evidence does appear to show that the JCHR’s concerns about the cumulative impact of a number of reforms and policy changes on independent living have been realised. If disabled people are hit by two, three, four or even more separate changes to benefits, social care and other services, they lose much of the support they need to live independently in the community in terms of UNCRPD Article 19.”

“…. the importance of fulfilling disabled people’s right to independent living is such that serious consideration should be given to incorporating UNCRPD Article 19 (and related international human rights protections) into UK domestic law. This could be done so as to provide an overarching statutory duty on all areas of Government to take account of the need to respect, protect and fulfil disabled people’s right to independent living, and a duty to avoid retrogression, in all relevant policymaking.”

The rights to work, to social security and to an adequate standard of living

“… there continue to be significant barriers to disabled people’s access to the labour market, compromising their enjoyment of the right to work and the right to fair and just conditions of employment.”

“The key concern in relation to employment and support allowance, and the operation of the work capability assessment, is that the structure of the benefit and the frequency of inaccurate assessments leaves many people with long term health conditions in a no-man’s land – neither eligible for out of work benefits nor able to undertake paid work. This failure to provide income replacement benefits to disabled people and people with long term health conditions when they are unable to work constitutes a failure to respect, protect and fulfil disabled people’s right to social security … and, for many disabled people, their right to an adequate standard of living….”

“[Disabled people] are disproportionately affected by the reduced availability of advice services, which has an impact on their enjoyment of their… right to social security and, for many, an adequate standard of living.”

“There are a number of factors that increase the risk of disabled people becoming destitute, which reflect a failure to comply with the minimum core obligations under ICESCR and UNCRPD and to guarantee their rights to social security, social protection and an adequate standard of living…. appropriate recommendations include refocusing the ethos and performance management of DWP and JobCentre Plus so that their primary responsibility is to ensure claimants are able to support themselves and their families – by being supported to enjoy their rights to work, to social security and to an adequate standard of living…”

Use the report!

This has been a complex and demanding piece of work, but a vitally important one. It’s important that the report has an influence where it needs to, including for the forthcoming examinations under UNCRPD in 2015 and under ICESCR in 2016.

Do take the opportunity to bring the report to the attention of your MP, and encourage him or her to read it for themselves rather than merely look at its casual dismissal by the Government. I’m confident that the report can withstand scrutiny.

 

Report launch: Dignity and Opportunity for All

Good news! The report on disabled people’s human rights, which I’ve been working on for 6 months, is to be launched on Monday 7 July.

The report

Last November, I was commissioned by Just Fair to produce a report entitled “Dignity and Opportunity for All: Securing the rights of disabled people in the austerity era”, to help fulfil the charity’s aim to increase understanding of economic and social rights and ensure that law, policy and practice comply with the UK’s international human rights obligations. The report analyses the extent to which the UK Government is meeting its obligations to respect, protect and fulfil some key disabled people’s rights, including the rights to independent living, work, social security and an adequate standard of living. These rights are set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

The analysis is rigorous and evidence-based, and includes a set of recommendations in relation to social care and social security policies. The report will be submitted to the UN committees that monitor these human rights treaties, in order to influence and inform their conclusions regarding UK compliance.

The launch

The report launch will take place in the Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, London SW1A 2LW, on Monday 7 July from 6.30 – 8 pm.

If you would like to attend the launch, please book your ticket online at Eventbrite, not forgetting to book an extra ticket if you need to bring a PA with you.  Tickets are available on a first come, first served basis. See you there!

Labour’s buried treasure

The Labour Party has commissioned, received – and buried – a superb and timely report into poverty and disability in the UK today.  If they won’t publicise it, then we must!

One of the big social and policy challenges in Britain today is the persistent and complex link between disability and poverty – disabled people are more likely to live in poverty,[1] but people living in poverty are also more likely to become disabled.[2] Approximately one-fifth (19%) of the UK population is disabled or has a long term health condition.[3] Disabled people are 30% less likely to be in paid work than non-disabled people[4] but face very high disability-related costs.[5] And this is all in spite of the requirements of the Equality Act 2010 (which replaced the Disability Discrimination Act 1995) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, ratified by the UK Government in 2009.

Against this background, last Summer Labour commissioned a Task Force to look at ways to break the link between disability and poverty, sending out a press release.[6] All six members of the Task Force are supremely well-qualified, both personally and professionally, to bring together evidence, research and their own understanding of the complexity of disability and chronic ill-health to produce an outstanding report. Mindful of the economic constraints that will face whatever party forms a government in 2015, they tailored the report’s recommendations accordingly, although it is unrealistic to expect to tackle this issue effectively without any further investment at all. Using current expenditure more effectively is the priority.

Breaking the link between disability and poverty, was published on 24 April. There was no press release to accompany the publication of the report.[7] Apparently a report commissioned by the shadow DWP team is now viewed as an unsolicited policy submission!

The Task Force emphasised to Labour how important it is for such a report to be available in accessible formats, so that disabled people can read it and discuss its contents. They even offered to arrange for the report to be translated into Easy Read on behalf of the Party, so the UK’s one million voters with learning disabilities could join the discussion. Astonishingly, this offer was rejected! Can Labour really afford to jeopardise the votes of a million people with learning disabilities?[8] Or Britain’s 10.8 million disabled adults?[9]

Anyway, enough of Labour’s bizarre and discourteous behaviour. What of the report itself? The Task Force have done a superb job, trying to balance the need for action and its inevitable costs against the economic constraints that will face the next Government. The report deserves proper consideration – by any and all politicians and their parties. Neil Crowther, one of the Task Force members, has summarised the report as follows:[10]

“…Britain can and must invest public resources more effectively than at present to create the infrastructure of support that will enable disabled people to escape and remain resilient to poverty.

“This is especially so in these tough economic times when, despite public spending cuts, millions of pounds of public money is being wasted on poorly designed, ineffective and bureaucratic systems and approaches such as the Work Capability Assessment, the Work Programme and fragmented public services.  Disabled people frequently face more red-tape than the average small business in securing the support just to lead lives everyone else takes for granted.  This contributes to, rather than helps relieve poverty, undermining people’s life chances.

“So we call for reform of assessments which should focus on people’s interaction with the world around them, including in the labour market, rather than just at the functional impact of their impairment or health condition.  We back the proposals of Disability Rights UK to replace the Work Programme with localised, personalised employment support that places disabled people and employers in the driving seat.  We propose an uplift in investment in Access to Work given the clear returns to the Treasury of the scheme.  We call for greater integration of employment support, health, social care and education around people in support of their participation.  And we seek a re-commitment to and improvement of our approach to disability equality, including assessing the impact of policies, removing the costs of employment tribunals in discrimination cases and renewing the institutional support for disability equality including the EHRC and the ODI.

“We also explore how disability related extra costs of living might be reduced for example through national and local government using its buying power to reduce the costs of aids and equipment and through preventing benefits being swallowed up by social care charges.

“We conclude however that disability related poverty cannot be tackled without further investment in a disability costs benefit. This will take time to develop and implement, but we believe it a matter of social justice that as disabled people have borne so much of the ‘austerity’ spending cuts, despite pre-existing poverty and exclusion, that they should be priority beneficiaries of the proceeds of inclusive economic growth.”

But read the report for yourself! It deserves the attention of policy-makers of all parties and none. Share, share, share!

 

Notes

1 Bulloch S & Rogers C (2014) Better living, higher standards: improving the lives of disabled people by 2020, Scope policy report
Burchardt (2003) ‘Being and becoming: Social exclusion and the onset of disability’, ESRC Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion
3 Disability prevalence factsheet, Office for Disability Issues (updated January 2014)
4 Disability facts and figures, Office for Disability Issues
5 Brawn E (2014) Priced out: ending the financial penalty of disability by 2020, Scope policy report
6 Labour takes aim at disability poverty
7 Labour Party Poverty and Disability Taskforce Report Published
8 Actions speak louder than words – Labour publish Poverty & Disability taskforce report
9 Disability prevalence factsheet, Office for Disability Issues (updated January 2014)
10  The Labour Party commissioned Poverty & Disability Taskforce Report in a nutshell

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