Saturday 5 February 2011

Scotland Condemns Disability Living Allowance Reform

A Motion condemning Disability Living Allowance reform as it is being carried out by the Department for Work and Pensions was tabled in the Scottish Parliament yesterday by Kenneth Gibson MSP. The motion reads:

*S3M-7891 Kenneth Gibson: Disability Living Allowance Reform
—That the Parliament condemns the decision by the UK Government to reform the Disability Living Allowance benefit in the way that it has; recognises the importance of this benefit to thousands of disabled people across the country and believes that the proposed reforms will have a negative impact on those who currently receive it; considers that there are serious flaws in the consultation paper and that there is little evidence to support the Department for Work and Pensions’ case for such reform; further believes that it is likely that benefit expenditure will fall but that health and social care expenditure will inevitably increase, thus transferring the burden of cost to areas that the Scottish Parliament is responsible for, and, as such, calls on the Minister for Disabled People to withdraw the proposals.

The Broken of Britain contacted Mr. Gibson to ask him to table this motion, after Leanne Wood tabled a similar motion in the Welsh Assembly at our request. Thus Scotland joins Wales in opposition to DLA reform. An EDM on the DLA Consultation in Westminster, also tabled at our request, is meeting great success with 37 signatures so far, well above average for an EDM.

If you live in Scotland, write to your MSP urging them to support the motion:

Dear Member of Scottish Parliament,

I write to ask you to sign the Scottish Parliament's Motion entitled: "Disability Living Allowance Reform". Kenneth Gibson MSP tabled this statement, which reads:

That the Parliament condemns the decision by the UK Government to reform the Disability Living Allowance benefit in the way that it has; recognises the importance of this benefit to thousands of disabled people across the country and believes that the proposed reforms will have a negative impact on those who currently receive it; considers that there are serious flaws in the consultation paper and that there is little evidence to support the Department for Work and Pensions’ case for such reform; further believes that it is likely that benefit expenditure will fall but that health and social care expenditure will inevitably increase, thus transferring the burden of cost to areas that the Scottish Parliament is responsible for, and, as such, calls on the Minister for Disabled People to withdraw the proposals.

I ask you to sign the motion on behalf of your disabled constituents, and to protect the Scottish Parliament's budget from British cuts.

Yours sincerely,

If you live in Wales, you can still write to your AM asking them to back the Statement of Opinion on Wales' opposition to DLA reform. And, wherever in the UK you are, write to your MP and get them to support EDM 1332 on the Disability Living Allowance consultation.

Live Q&A with Maria Miller

Guardian Money are hosting a live web-based Q&A with Maria Miller next Wednesday afternoon. It's important that as many people as possible ask searching questions of Maria Miller. A few tips on good questions are:

1. Steer clear of obvious questions. There is some confusion over indefinite/life awards, but it is already clear that claimants with 'life' awards will be reassessed, as will over 65s and children. The details will not be available for months, when the consultation report is published. Thus, such questions give Maria Miller the easy option of answering 'soft' questions.

2. Don't ask questions that are framed personally - asking about yourself and your condition. This will give Maria Miller the opportunity to bluster and paatronize, without saying anything new.

3. Pick out a phrase from the consultation document that you think is misleading or confusing. Quote it and ask her what it means.

4. Make sure that your question is phrased respectfully.

5. You are welcome to contact at any point.

Finally, on an unrelated note, a TBofB member wanted to tell people:

If suffering with a chronic & profound illness and/or disability they DO NOT have to travel to any AH assessment center but can request a domiciliary visit to permit a "doctor" to visit and assess them at home. They must make sure they have a reliable chaperon with them at all times.

Thursday 3 February 2011

Another PCC Complaint Against the Daily Mail

The Daily Mail has printed yet another article on 'disability benefits' - DLA this time - claiming that half of DLA claimants are not asked to prove eligibility. The claims are demolished on Where's The Benefit.

Obviously, this article is as worthy of referral to the PCC as last week's attempt on the subject of ESA. So we've put together another complaint which you can paste into the PCC online complaint form:

The headline of this article airs a gross inaccuracy repeated by its first sentence: 'Half the 3.2million people on disability benefit have never been asked for evidence to back their claims, it emerged last night.'

This claim is not only grossly inaccurate and misleading, but is also a distortion and misrepresentation of the truth. There are no Disability Living Allowance claimants who have never been asked to provide evidence - filling in the long application form is a prerequisite of a successful claim. There are Special Rules for claimants who need their claim processed quickly - in cases of terminal illness, for example - but these rules only apply to 1.2% of the DLA caseload 0r 37,800 people.

The written answers in this Hansard document do show that a majority of DLA claimants are given 'Indefinite' Awards. The prevalence of this type of award reflects that a great many impairments are lifelong and cannot be cured, and that reassessment of these cases wouuld be a waste of time and public money. The Daily Mail article distorts these facts to support their claim that disabled people have never been asked for evidence when making a claim for DLA.

The article also says that: 'The Department for Work and Pensions says the number of people on DLA has risen inexplicably from 2.5million in 2003 to nearly 3.2million.' In fact, the DWP have said nothing of the sort and that there are many possible explanations - including population growth, demographic shift, and increased awareness of the benefit. By reporting that the increase in benefit claims is inexplicable, the Daily Mail fails to distinguish between fact and comment.

The article report that: 'Of those [claimants], 31 per cent – almost a million – have been claiming for 14 years or more, while 46 per cent have been on the benefit for more for ten years.' Whilst this claim is accurate, and related to the statistics for indefinite awards, it is distorted in the context of the article.

You are complaining under the following sections of the Code of Practice:

1 i), ii) inaccuracy and gross inaccuracy. and iii) failing to distinguish between comment, conjecture and fact
12i) prejudicial reference to disability

Since we complained last week, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is getting rather boring. And it is. However, The Broken of Britain want to show the Daily Mail that their tirades against disabled people will not be put up with anymore - if they print the smallest falsity, distortion or lie about disabled people, we will make a noise about it, But we need you to help us by using the above template to make your own complaint!

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Anouncing Project V -Tell Them How You Feel

The consultation on Disability Living Allowance reform closes in just over a week, on Valentine's Day, and The Broken of Britain intends to keep up the pressure right to the very end. We're asking you to send your MP a Valentine card to remind them just how much you love them... or, alternatively, to remind them to oppose changes that will cause hardship for disabled people.

Along with the card, send the letter attached to this link. All you need to do on the letter is insert your MP's name, and your own name and address. You could either buy a cheap card and post it off to your MP, or you can print a free card. We want you to send your MP this card in time for the 14th of February and we suggest the following text:

Don't Break The Hearts Of Disabled People

The 14th of February is the closing date for the Public Consultation on the reform of Disability Living Allowance. The consultation is flawed, and biased towards an outcome that will cause hardship for disabled people in Britain. Please register your concern by signing EDM 1332 on the DLA Consultation.

This action is all about grabbing the attention of politicians and is, admittedly, a bit cheesy. But, assuming that you are not lactose intolerant, cheese can be useful!

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Disabled In The UK - The 'New Jews'?

 Originally posted by TiddBits here

You think me anti-Semitic? Not at all! My title refers to the Nazis’ first selected victims of their eugenic attempts to create a ‘master race’ – persecution of the Jews came later; the first victims were disabled people, in particular those with mental illnesses. Quietly gassed in the first experiments with Zyklon B, these unfortunates were comparatively low in numbers, were less likely to be missed, could not speak up for themselves, and had no-one to speak up for them.

Fast forward 70 years to the UK. Successive governments, faced with a rising welfare bill and huge budget deficit caused by the reckless gambling of certain bankers, have wrestled with the problem of how to reduce both. Now, this is not an economics essay; the failure to introduce a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ on the banks, which would have hurt them very little and wiped out much or all the deficit at a stroke, has been raised and argued elsewhere. My business is with the welfare budget, and specifically with measures taken against the disabled community, dressed up by all concerned as “empowering the disabled, enabling them to meet their potential and live active and fulfilled lives”. (If only..)

Am I calling the Conservative / Liberal Democrat Coalition ‘Nazis’? No, of course not. But it is instructive that the disabled as a group were targeted by both regimes, for the very simple reason that they can’t easily fight back. Battling with ill-health or severe handicaps, beset with fatigue, frustration and the apathetic inertia of bureaucracy at every turn, it is too easy for a disabled person to simply ‘give up’, to accept what is doled out to them, and to take the path of least resistance. It takes a true cynic, and a callous cynic at that, to exploit the weak in this way.

There is another parallel too. In Nazi Germany, the population was subjected to systematic anti-Jewish propaganda, the Jewish community were forced to wear the Star of David prominently, all culminating in the notorious “Kristallnacht” of 1938 when Jewish shops, homes and synagogues were attacked and destroyed by SS stormtroopers. It is a very long step from there to the plight of disabled people in the UK, but consider this : the media, especially the tabloid press ‘led’ by The Daily Mail, have subjected the British population to waves of propaganda against what they call “benefit cheats”. These exist, of course; despite costing the taxpayer far less than tax-avoiding individuals and corporations, they are easier to target and pillory, relying on the righteous indignation of working people against “work-shy scroungers” getting a “free handout”. The fact that genuinely sick and disabled people – an immeasurably larger group – are lumped in with the cheats, attracting the increasing ire of ordinary people, troubles the media not one bit.
“What is happening to the disabled”, you ask, “that you should make such accusations?” Let me call forth the main witnesses, one by one.

Step forward…

Step forward ATOS Healthcare. Charged with ‘assessing’ the sick and disabled, then making decisions about whether these are to receive the latest version of Incapacity Benefit (renamed, in a fit of Orwellian NewSpeak, as ‘Employment Support Allowance’), or to be thrust into the job market (or “on the dole”, as it used to be called). Now, some ATOS assessors have some medical training. Some do not. But those professionals who definitely do - the claimant’s own doctor and consultant – are not thought fit to provide the necessary evidence. What is more, ATOS are charged with reducing the benefit roll by a certain percentage, it matters not whether the numbers include those who are genuinely sick or disabled (and most are, despite the best efforts by The Daily Mail to label all who receive welfare as ‘workshy’, ‘cheats’, and / or ‘scroungers’).

Step forward David Cameron. Yes, the same Prime Minister whose own son Ivan was severely disabled, and sadly died. You might think, might you not, that a father who had been in such a position of tragic responsibility, would not preside over the kind of institutionalised heartlessness towards the disabled currently being perpetrated? You might think, might you not, that the experience of dealing daily with the problems of severe disability, would bring some sense of perspective and compassion? You might indeed think so.

The problem is, young Ivan was so severely disabled that David Cameron now seems blinded to all apparently ‘lesser’ forms of disability. God forbid that someone who has had ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy) for 20 years, can barely get out of bed unaided, cannot think straight, often cannot walk, be regarded as disabled. “You’re just tired, snap out of it”. I have no idea if David Cameron actually thinks this, but since fatigue as a symptom is specifically excluded from ATOS assessments, his civil servants certainly do.

Step forward The Labour Party. What, the whole party in perpetuity? No, specifically New Labour including its current leader Ed Miliband. The original Labour Party’s founding philosophy was the protection of the working classes, of women, of the very young, the elderly, the sick and the disabled. Yet New Labour, concerned with bringing down the welfare budget - the self-same welfare system that its antecedents fought so hard to bring into being – were the ones who brought in ESA, ATOS Healthcare, and the assessments designed to reduce the numbers claiming Incapacity Benefit.
In all the discussions concerning the current public expenditure cuts, Ed Miliband has stood up and opposed the Coalition in almost every initiative. Except one. He has gone along with the reduction in the welfare budget, especially the Incapacity Benefit farrago; why should he not? It was, after all, his predecessors who introduced it, and Ed is not mature enough, not yet comfortable enough in his shoes, to forge his own political identity and stand up to the “tabloid media” populism we now live under.

The new Jews?

Disabled people in Britain are facing an attack on their security, peace of mind, and long-term prospects, unparalleled since the Second World War and the Beveridge Report’s precursor to the Welfare State as we know it. Sick people are being thrown into a jobs market that cannot find work for healthy, able-bodied people. Disabled people are having their benefits cut and abandoned to the discretionary powers of the Social Services at a time when the latter are having their budgets severely trimmed. (And let us not forget – Social Services place disability near the bottom of their priority scale, having to concentrate on ‘problem families’ and child welfare). It is not too much of an exaggeration to call this a crisis, a crisis being forced upon people who can least afford to deal with it, either financially or in terms of human resources. The ‘belt tightening’ of the average working family is utterly trivial in comparison.

With endless apologies to any Jewish people reading this and all ready to take offence – look into your own history and if you hate what you see there, rise up in protest and make an outcry. And to everyone reading this who has a human conscience, do the same : rise up in protest and make your voices heard. Cry out on behalf of those who so often cannot.

Monday 31 January 2011

Cuts List

  1. Housing: There is a major shortage of accessible housing in the social sector meaning many disabled people are already forced to rent in the more costly private sector where it is incredibly difficult to find an accessible property. Estate agents do not have to keep details of adaptations or access features, so in addition to the significant rent shortfalls most Local Housing Allowance recipients face, disabled people are additionally disadvantaged by barriers to searching for a home. Mind The Step estimates that 78, 000 households which include a wheelchair user live in homes which are not fully accessible.  The allocation of accessible social housing is already woefully inadequate; in 2008-9 only 22% of local authority and housing association ‘wheelchair standard’ properties allocated to households including a wheelchair user. Plans to remove security of tenure from social housing tenants disproportionately impact on disabled people, as costly adaptations are a barrier to moving regardless of size of property.
  2. Housing Benefits: Provision for an additional bedroom for a non-resident carer where a disabled person has an established need for overnight care is a welcome step but will not be awarded automatically. It also fails to address the need for extra space to use a wheelchair, store equipment, receive dialysis or other medical treatment experienced by many disabled people. Anyone under 35 who is disabled but not in receipt of middle or high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance will receive the shared room rate despite shared housing being impossible to access for many disabled people for a myriad of reasons. The recent announcement that DLA is to be scrapped means it is currently impossible to assess the full impact of these two changes. From October 2011 the LHA will be reduced from the 50th percentile of Broad Market Rent to the 30th forcing disabled people to rent the very cheapest properties which are more likely to be inaccessible. Linking LHA to the Consumer Price Index which does not take into account housing costs will further limit disabled people’s access to suitable housing. Housing benefits are to be time limited to 12 months for people in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance, after which benefit will be reduced by 10% for those still out of work. This must be understood in the context of the controversial Work Capability Assessment designed to strictly limit the numbers of disabled people entitled to Employment & Support Allowance. Discretionary housing benefits have been increased in recognition of the expected hardships the reduction in LHA will cause, but these can only be claimed for a maximum 13 weeks meaning they are completely unsuitable to protect disabled people’s homes in the longer term. Changes to the amount of mortgage interest payments have been estimated to potentially lead to additional 64, 000 disabled people becoming homeless
  3. DLA/PIP Sweeping changes were announced to DLA in the CSR which intend to reduce overall eligibility by 20-25%. The higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance used by disabled people to pay for transport outside their homes via motability vehicles, powered wheelchairs and accessible taxis will no longer be paid to state funded care home residents as the government deem the local authorities should provide transport services. However, people self funding their care home places will continue to receive the HRM, making the argument that LA’s provide appropriate transport dubious at best. This will see 9/10 Livability care home residents as ‘prisoners’ in their own homes, left with just £22 p/wk to pay for toiletries, glasses, clothing, entertainment and potentially also for suitable wheelchairs costing tens of thousands of pounds, currently often funded via HRM.
  4. In ADDITION to this reduction the government have now announced their intention to scrap DLA altogether and replace it with Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The intent is to reassess all DLA recipients from 2013 at vast cost and further reduction to entitlement. The consultation implies that anyone who receives support from a source such as social services will no longer be entitled to PIP. It also implies that if there a mobility aid such as a wheelchair could be used that will preclude entitlement to PIP even if the only way to fund purchase of that mobility aid had previously been through DLA. Disabled People’s Organisations are asking the question, ‘just which disabled people will actually be able to qualify for this benefit’?
  5.  IB/ESA Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) is the controversial replacement to Incapacity Benefit described in June 2010 as ‘unfit for purpose’ and the ‘responsibility’ of ministers by Danny Alexander MP. ESA will be replaced by the Universal Credit but reassessment by the flawed WCA, criticised as not working properly by its own creator will continue at huge financial and personal cost.
  6. Contributory ESA, paid only to those with sufficient NI contributions, is to be time limited to 12 months, raising very serious questions about the ‘insurance’ part of NI. This will cause significant hardship to families reliant upon ESA and may well lead to further unemployment and higher overall benefit claims as families find the only way they can provide care to the disabled member is for the carer to drop out of employment altogether.
  7.   There are many changes to the provision, entitlement to and charges paid for receiving social care. The Independent Living Fund which provided for the highest level support needs in combination with the local authorities is now to be scrapped without consultation. Despite the government insisting the local authorities should not need to reduce the provision of social care, areas such as Birmingham are restricting it to those with ‘extra critical’ needs only, a higher threshold than the four bands set out in the government’s fair access to care services guidance whilst most local authorities intend to increase charges. The practical impact of this can be seen in the recent decision by Kensington & Chelsea council to remove night care from a former ballerina, who will now be left to lie on soiled incontinence pads at night as it is cheaper than providing a carer to assist her to a commode. 
  8. Access to Work provide funding for disability-related equipment for working disabled people. It supported some 37,000 disabled workers last year. Touted as "improvements" the reform redefines what it is "reasonable" to expect an employer to provide for disabled staff. Some things which will no longer be funded are voice activated software and specialist chairs. It might seem reasonable to say that an employer hiring for an office position should provide the new employee with a chair but a specialist chair costs significantly more than standard, sometimes many thousands. Multiply that across all the equipment on the list and suddenly it becomes significantly more expensive for an employer to hire a disabled employee. 
  9. Transport. In addition to the removal of the high rate mobility component of DLA from care home residents (starting 2012) there are also cuts to various council funded communityThe impact of the cuts varies in each borough but the general picture is of disabled people facing cost increases of over 65% for a vastly restricted service.  transport schemes. Taxicard is a vital scheme which provides door to door transport for older and disabled people in London.
Please add any cuts you are aware of in the comments section and we will update this list accordingly, thank you

A Week To Go On The Petition

Things are hotting up now that there are only two weeks left until the Disability Living Allowance reform consultation closes on the 14th of February. The Broken of Britain has arranged for EDM 1332 in Westminster, a Statement of Opinion in the Welsh Assembly, and otherwise campaigning and lobbying. However, our first action was this petition calling on the Minister for Disabled People to recall the consultation and cancel reform plans. The petition will be presented to Maria Miller and the Department of Work and Pensions.

When the petition is submitted, we hope to have 10,000 signatures. At the moment, there are 3,786. The target should not pose great difficulties, as there are 3.1 million DLA claimants in the UK, so gathering 6,214 signatures in a week should not be a problem. The only obstacle is making sure that people know about it, and this is where we need your help. We need you to blog about the petition; tweet about it, e-mail the link to family and friends; post it on your websites. You can even accost random strangers on the street, but we don't recommend it... Best of luck!

The Petition

Sunday 30 January 2011

NEWS: Shorty Award Nomination!

We are pleased to announce that Supporters on Twitter have nominated The Broken of Britain for Shorty Awards. The submitted categories were "government" and "politics"

Please note that the ideal category is "politics" as we are a political campaign, not a government agency.

"The Shorty Awards honor the best people and organizations on Twitter and social media.Nominations may be made through Twitter and this website, culminating in an awards ceremony that recognizes the winners in dozens of official categories, as well as thousands of crowd-sourced categories. For the first time, the Shorty Awards will also honor the industry's best agencies and social media professionals."
Our profile, which includes a Shorty Interview, can be accessed as follows: TBofB Shorty Awards Profile. A huge thank you to everyone for your generous support and appreciation!

Nominate Broken OfBritain for a social media award in the Shorty Awards!Nominate Broken OfBritain for a social media award in the Shorty Awards