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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…. 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

Welfare reform is a reality

Brilliant to have an honest, realistic post on welfare reform on the Faculty of Public Health’s blog!

Better Health For All

by Paul Southon

  • Public Health Development Manager
  • UK Healthy Cities Network Local Coordinator

Welfare reform is a reality. Reviews of the likely health impacts suggest that they will be significant, are starting now and will last for a generation. (1) (2)

Work to quantify the financial implications for local areas shows that the financial impact will be disproportionately felt by the areas with the largest health inequalities. (3) There is also evidence that the impacts on already disadvantaged sections of communities – such as disabled people, black and minority ethnic groups and women – will be disproportionate. (4) (5)

All of this is happening at a time of major reductions in budgets and staffing across the public sector which limits the local ability to respond. This has been described as a perfect storm for local government. It will also have significant impacts across health services.

Over the longer term there…

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This entry was posted on 01/10/2013, in News.

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

Do we still value people for who they are?

Disabled man surfing the internetRecently, I’ve been wondering: what happened to our society’s fundamental moral belief that people have inherent value by virtue of being human? When did we start, consciously or sub-consciously, measuring people’s well-being in terms of cost? Is this the kind of society we really want, or is it the result of a political ideology for which very few of us consciously voted?

A number of topics currently in the public domain share at least one important characteristic: they emphasise a worrying shift in our society’s values, a shift whereby our belief in the unique and intrinsic value of each individual is being compromised and replaced by an overriding concern about how much it costs to support those of us who are disabled or chronically sick. A blatant challenge to our long-held belief in the intrinsic value of human life was the recent re-election of Councillor Colin Brewer in the West Country. Councillor Brewer, who had previously resigned when a comment he had made in 2011 about disabled children costing too much became public knowledge, was interviewed by the Disability News Service last week, when he “insisted that he was a Christian, and believed that ‘all life is precious'” but also “repeatedly indicated that he believed there was a good argument for killing some disabled babies with high support needs, because of the cost of providing them with services”. This has understandably provoked an outcry from disabled people and their families and I would be surprised if he remains in office in the longer term. 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

Independent living is expensive – but its value exceeds the cost

This is the 8th annual Blogging against Disablism Day but I’ve never participated before. I’m not good at these ‘special days’. I write when I want to, when I have something to say and, above all, when I can. Campaigning, advising, writing briefings, attending meetings, maintaining websites, ill-health, family responsibilities etc all take their toll, which is why I don’t blog very often.

So I was going to leave it to others to mark this day… until I watched a set of videos recently produced by Scope for their Britain Cares campaign. Continue reading