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On poverty and food banks, the Coalition reveals its true colours

This is a very personal blog. One of the issues that has troubled me greatly in relation to this Government is that I’ve been all-too aware of the support Iain Duncan Smith’s policies have enjoyed from the evangelical wing of the church. Indeed, a leading member of a church similar to mine is (still, I believe) one of IDS’s special advisers. I’ve found that very hard to understand or accept – that a committed Christian appears to support social security policies that are causing such hardship and suffering among those who have the misfortune to be disabled, chronically sick or poor. (See note 1) 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

Miriam’s open letter to David Cameron

Miriam’s letter poignantly describes the sorts of battles disabled people face every day in our country… this is our reality:

Dear Mr Cameron

On 16th August 2006 I was judged to be sufficiently disabled to warrant being awarded the higher rate mobility component and lower rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, indefinitely as my condition is not curable. I have severe Peripheral Vascular Disease. I was also in receipt of Incapacity Benefit at that time. 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

The perils of being a “vulnerable” benefit claimant

JobCentre Plus logoToday, the Commons Public Accounts Committee published its report into some of the activities of JobCentre Plus (JCP), managed by the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). Despite being snowed under with other work, I’ve read some of the report with interest, since I know very well that sick & disabled people who are dependent on benefits are often treated very badly indeed by the system that’s supposed to support them.

As an aside, I dislike the word “vulnerable”, as it tends to be used in relation to most or all sick & disabled people, and there’s no automatic reason why people have to be considered vulnerable just because they happen to be disabled. However, I do think  most sick or disabled people who are dependent on benefits are made vulnerable by the benefits system itself, which is steadily becoming less supportive and more punitive. Indeed, in a meeting I attended yesterday, we were reflecting that we really don’t believe punishing people and making their lives more and more stressful is going to “change their behaviour”, which in DWP-speak means “make them get a job”. Quite the reverse; the more punitive the measures taken against sick & disabled people and the more hardship they suffer, the more stressed they will become and the more their health will worsen. It’s not rocket science! If DWP doesn’t understand that, it’s because they don’t want to. 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/

Morris King & Hodge P.C. and other 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