Friday 25 March 2011

Carers need action NOW from Coalition government

By TBofB Partner Carer Watch

Carer Watch were pleased to learn in the recent publication of the new Welfare Reform Bill that Carers Allowance will remain outside the proposed Universal Credit. Carer Watch, along with many others, have campaigned long and hard for this.

However Carers Allowance has always been completely inadequate and carers still seem to be over looked and forgotten as other benefits are changed around them.

Carer Watch hope that this welcome recognition that carers are unique within the benefit system will be the start of a complete reform of carer benefits so that finally carers receive the support they need.

Carers are often described as ‘unsung heroes’, ‘invisible army’, yet under this cloak of invisibility lies family members and friends, providing a service that this country cannot do without. They provide the foundation that underpins both NHS and Social Services.

There have been many campaigns over the years by various organisations (see notes below,) all asking for the same – the reform of Carers Allowance – to remove the restrictions therein and also to increase the monetary pittance that CA is.

In the report Breakthrough Britain (2007) from the Social Justice Policy Group (policy recommendations to the Conservative Party) it was recommended –

doubling the carers allowance to £90 a week because of the vast amounts carers save the taxpayer by looking after their sick and elderly relatives at home and not relying on the state to care for them.
Other measures would need be put in place to ensure that families claiming other benefits/premiums were no worse off. 

The report also states -  
Family carers are undervalued in our society and receive a disproportionately low level of financial support given the many hours of work that they do.
Therefore, while the decision to keep Carers Allowance separate from the proposed Universal Credit is welcome, this is NOT the end but the start.

Carer Watch call on the Coalition government to make a statement explaining how they intend to reform Carers Allowance and ensure that family carers finally receive the full recognition they deserve.

We will be contacting Iain Duncan Smith and DWP dept. Any response will be added here.


Carer Watch campaigns    
National Pensioners Convention      
Carers UK         
Daily Mirror
Age UK – Invisible but invaluable 

Original post can be found here

Thursday 24 March 2011

Left Out In The Cold - LibDemVoice

The Broken of Britain has posted a blog on - the popular Liberal Democrat political blog - as part of our drive to raise awareness of the consequence of the Welfare Reform Bill for disabled people.

Make Your Stand #TBofBTT

by @miss_steff

Over a hundred people have replied to The Broken Of Britain's #ProjV twitter hash tag project. Mums caring for disabled children, children caring for disabled mums. People who have jobs, those who are unable to work. The physically handicapped and the mentally unwell – the set who are both. The bold and the vocal and those who struggle to be heard. If we are so different then why did we all come together at this time? We, or those who we care for, receive disability living allowance (DLA) We, or our carers, have trudged through that hellish forty page plus form and emerged with a small sum of money. Not enough to fund anywhere near a lavish lifestyle, despite what the government might have you believe, but just enough to squeak by.

I didn't always claim DLA. I left high school aged eighteen with good qualifications and started a degree in radiotherapy at a local university. The first member of my family to ever enter higher education. Part of this degree involved regular placements in a cancer hospital – I loved it. I enjoyed operating the machines, talking to patients and attending seminars. I had reached third year when everything started to go wrong. It started out innocuously enough – I wanted to avoid people. I still did my placements but avoided my peers during lunchtime, opting to eat alone in the locker room. It got worse. I began to take days off sick to avoid being around others. Eventually I stopped going in all together.

It was around this time that I was persuaded by my partner to seek help. I saw my GP and was prescribed a course of antidepressants. Expecting them to be a miracle cure, I started back at university but found I was too drowsy on them to safely operate the specialised x-ray machinery. I was forced into saying goodbye again.

For the next few months I rarely left the house during daylight. During the hours where my partner was at work I lay in bed, mostly sleeping, sometimes clicking around online. It didn't occur to me to apply for benefits at this time. We lived off my partner's wages and my ever dwindling student overdraft. Unable to sleep I often went for night walks around the area where we lived.

My doctor switched me to a medicine that made me less drowsy. By this time it was too late to go back to university as the term had ended but I managed to get myself a summer job. It was a struggle as my mind was screaming at me to get away from everyone but I did the work as best I could. I was glad to see the job end. I started back at university as a repeating student, which was fine for around three months before I was back at square one. Avoidance. I could no longer cope with stress. I began to see the faces of people I loved pasted onto dying patients. I had to leave. Things began to move out the corner of my eye. I began to feel mistrustful.

Despite this I contacted all the agencies in Glasgow for temp work. Eventually training to be a housing benefits officer for the local council. Never in a million years thinking that I was soon to rely on them for the roof over my head. It was whilst assessing a claim for a family from a street near my own that I finally lost the plot. I had been hearing voices on and off for a while by this point. This was not unusual – they were advice givers. They told me that my dreams predicted the future. I felt special that they had chosen me.

It was because of the radio that everything went wrong. I thought my co-workers were deliberately using it to tune into the station that broadcast my thoughts for all to hear twenty four seven. I found this terrifying and began to retreat into myself in the office. I got into an argument with one of my co-workers which made my mistrustfulness, which had now become full blown paranoia, worse. The voices became nasty, they told me that everyone was conspiring to get me sacked. It got even worse – they wanted to kill me.

I stopped going into work.

Unbeknownst to me I was now in the midst of a full psychotic breakdown. I hit rock bottom when, after I had been screaming the house down, the police came to the door. By all accounts they were highly professional and encouraged me to get help. I can't remember. It was then that a medical student friend arranged for me to get help. I was placed into hospital and started on a powerful drugs. It was also at this time that something wonderful happened. I was placed under the care of an early intervention service. They filled out application forms for DLA, housing benefit and ESA for me. I was awarded DLA care at the highest rate and mobility at the lower rate as I needed supervision outdoors. I emerged from hospital blinking into the light of being newly disabled.

I need my DLA. It pays for the shortfall in my housing benefit that allows me to live in a decent area of the city close to good transport links. Stopping me from needing to travel a long distance when I am not feeling good. It pays for a home internet connection – a powerful link to the outside world when all I want to do is stay indoors. It subsidies my partner who lost his job for taking time off to visit me in hospital and look after me following discharge. Also gym and swimming, important in fighting the weight gain caused by my anti-psychotic medication – reducing my likelihood of diabetes and improving my mood. Which will, in turn, make me cost less to the NHS.

It became absolutely essential last summer when I suffered an acute relapse and, after another hospital stay, was released into my mother's care. My mum, a team leader in the local council, needed to take an extended period of time off work to look after me as I required constant care. At this time she was paid a basic wage – resulting in decreased earnings. During my hospital stay she had incurred massive petrol bills whilst making the 22 mile round trip to see me twice a day during visiting hours. Now that I was back at home there were also extra food bills. My DLA helped pay for all of this – ensuring there was no risk to her mortgage.

Now that I am back on my feet DLA is providing me with not just a safety net but a spring board. I am planning to use it to finance a return to university where I aim to graduate as a social worker with a special interest in mental health, putting my personal experience and the skills I gained as a trainee radiotherapist to good use. DLA gives me hope for the future. If it is cut it I will have to rely on the generosity of my working class family to see me through university – something that they will struggle to do. I have been told that because of my health issues that I may only be able to work part time – so I see myself having to rely on DLA to top up my earnings in future. Taking it away might mean that I wont be able to work at all.

Why should you, those of able body and mind, care? To put it bluntly, it could be you next- or someone you love. When I was growing up I saw university, career and success. I did not see illness, pain and meagre benefits. I've had to watch my peers generate the taxes upon which I now rely. This fills me with the deepest sense of shame. We did not ask to become disabled – we would give anything to be like you. Please think of yourself as being not yet disabled – be grateful for your health and join in the fight to protect the most vulnerable in society. The government wants to turn you against us. Don't let your conscience be overruled by their lies. We truly are “all in this together” Now make your stand.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

The Guardian And Other News

First of all, sincere apologies for the radio silence from The Broken of Britain. Everybody's been busy dealing with the aftermath of Left Out In The Cold, and the progress of the Welfare Reform Bill.

The big news is the feature in The Guardian which focuses on The Broken of Britain. Kaliya has also had a Joe Public blog about the way the welfare reform fail to understand disability. There are also some other pieces lined up for publication elsewhere in the near future.

Away from the media, the Welfare Reform Bill has been plodding through Committee stage with its first sitting yesterday. The Broken of Britain has been lobbying Committee members, preparing evidence and staying on top of things.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Thoughts From The Den: Pain and Plaudits #TBofBTT

by @BigPawedBear

Padding round my local town recently, I fell to reflecting how inaccessible things still are for blind people, but also how accessible things can be if a little thought is put in. first the inaccessible parts of life.

Street furniture and advertisement boards. What a pain they are. Not only do we have signs hanging from shop fronts, do they still have those by the way? When I could see, over twenty years ago, I used to look up and see the signs sticking at right angles to the shop fronts, advertising what shop it was. Well, not only do we have those, but the signs, like a badly thought out benefit reform, have migrated painfully to the pathways.

This migration makes the lives of visually impaired and blind people especially difficult. Not only are the A boards there, they are mobile, not only are they mobile, so they can be placed anywhere, they are light enough, so that if you crash into them, they will fall over with an almighty clatter, and, as well as scaring the shit out of you, also prove a trip hazard.

I think they should put bleepers on the tops of these A boards, or stick them somewhere, preferably out of sight, which they are pretty much anyway, as they are at groin level. I could say more about things being at groin level, and will soon, as things start to get very painful on our walk around my local town.

Not only have I got movable, eminently dangerous A boards to contend with, coffee shops have sprung up, and with them the inevitable street furniture.

Whatever happened to shops staying within four walls? Now they flood the paths with A boards, shoe racks, and in the worst cases PA systems from which they blare “Sale this, and Sale that!” not that I’m against a sale mind you, and I’m glad to know there’s one on, for I can’t see the big signs in the shop windows, or read the A board that I’ve just fallen over, which advertises that one shop or another has a sale, and I can’t tell if I’m outside the shop advertised, as the A board, including me, are now six feet from where the a board was originally placed before I fell over it. Muttering a four letter word under my breath, I clatter past the A board, my tender anatomy mildly complaining.

I then smack into my next obstacle, the well placed, groin high bollard. These things, meant to stop cars, also stop blind people quickly, affectively, and painfully if you’re six foot 2. being doubled up in pain over a bollard, and yes I’ve been there, is not nice at all. “But your cane should have found that,” I hear you say. Yes, it should but sometimes, it doesn’t, and my, um, genital area finds it first. Ouch is all I’ll say.

Ok, enough of stumbling into A boards and impromptu gelding by bollards, let’s focus on something nice, the majority of the great British public. Yes, I know we’ve recently heard the worst kinds of things said about disabled people from the unthinking minorities, but go out with a white cane, and even better a guide dog, and you can come across the best of human nature.

I remember one time, a friend of mine and I met in town, wanting to go to a pub, we asked a gentleman where the pub was. To cut a long story short, not only did this gentleman take us to the pub, he offered to help us read the menu, and stayed with us throughout our meal to make sure we got drinks and things, as the pub was one of those where you have to go to the bar for everything. Without this gentleman we would never have had such a normal time of it.

I can’t remember his name now, but he sticks in my mind even now four months on. These people, who without prompting, seem to understand disabled people just want as normal an experience as they can possibly get , are amazing, and it is great to meet them. This gentleman helped us where we needed it, but was not overbearing, and he left us to talk in privacy, and yes, he had a beer on us, which is the least we felt we could offer him for his considerate help.

I’m running out of space here, so I’ll wind up things for now, but I hope I’ve given you a little insight into how it is to be out on the town when you happen to be blind.

Monday 21 March 2011

Message From UKDPC

The Hardest Hit – defending disabled people's futures -
Call for volunteers at the rally or march on 11 May

UKDPC is calling for volunteers to act as stewards at the rally or
march on the 11 May. Full details about the rally and march are
provided below.

UKDPC will provide full training to volunteers over the telephone or
in person. Training will also take place the 11 May 2011. Volunteers
will be notified of final arrangements.

If you would like to support this important day by acting as a
volunteer steward, then please get in touch with us by emailing no later than Friday 25 March 2011.

Please remember to include your name, contact number abd any access
requirements you may have in your email.

***Please note, this is a call for volunteers only. Details on how to
register as an attendee will be announced in due course. However, if
you are interested in volunteering as a steward, then please email us

The March
Thousands of disabled people as well as family and friends will be
marching to express solidarity and anger at the cuts threatening our
benefits, services, jobs and rights. The march will take us past the
Houses of Parliament and we will make sure that MPs and Peers hear
our collective voice and understand our message.

The Lobby
After the march many of us will be lobbying our MPs as the Welfare
Reform Bill reaches a critical stage in the House of Commons. We will
be sharing our stories, making sure that Parliamentarians understand
the combined impact of the cuts on our lives and futures. Crucially,
we will be challenging MPs to vote against policies that will push us
further into poverty and isolation.

The Rally
On the afternoon of the march we will meet in Methodist Central Hall
to hear from disabled people about the deep unfairness of the cuts
for their lives and futures. We will also listen to politicians from
the main political parties to find out how they plan to uphold the
rights, equality and participation of disabled people as promised in
the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Where and When
We will gather for the march from 11.30 on the Embankment by
Horseguards Avenue. It will start at 12.30 and take in Victoria
Embankment, Bridge Street, Parliament Square, Millbank and finish in
Dean Stanley Street at around 13.30. We expect the lobby to take
place in Westminster Hall and to run between 14.30 and 17.30.
Everyone hoping to see their MP during the afternoon is encouraged to
write in advance to get an appointment. The rally will take place in
Methodist Central Hall (close to the Houses of Parliament) with
speeches between 15.00 and 15.30.

We look forward to seeing you there!

The UK Disabled People's Council (UKDPC).

Via Anne Novis