Archives For DPAC

1) ‘Humiliation’ greets new Work Capability Assessment provider in first week

 

Over 30 protests were held across the country against the new provider of Work Capability Assessments (WCA) on Monday 2nd March. American company Maximus replace ATOS but campaigners claim that this is merely a shift from one ‘toxic’ profit seeking company to another, making no difference to the disabled people being assessed. Maximus also has a history of discrimination, incompetance and alleged fraud in the US.

Protests held by activists from Disabled People Against Cuts sought to re-name the company as Maximarse which trended briefly on Twitter during the demonstrations. Embarrassingly for Maximarse, it was revealed that the company had bought the domain http://www.maximarse.com to prevent any spoof websites being created against them.

The purchase was made on 26 January by the company’s senior manager for investor relations and corporate communications. Maximus have yet to comment on the domain purchase or their plans for the site.

Read more about this story here.

2) Jeremy Hunt accused of cover up over damning NHS report

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been accused of a ‘politically motivated’ cover up of a critical report on the NHS, written by Tory peer and ex-M&S boss Stuart Rose. Sarah Wollaston, a GP and Tory MP who now heads up the health select committee has accused Jeremy Hunt of with-holding vital information until after the election. The report is critical of problems with NHS management, which could come as a blow to the Tory election campaign, as the NHS becomes a hot topic. Rose is said to be angry at the report’s stifling, though has not made any comments.

“Wollaston told the Observer that reports which had been commissioned by government and paid for by taxpayers should be made available at the earliest opportunity on matters of such clear public interest. “There is far too much of this going on, with uncomfortable information being withheld,” Wollaston said. “Just as with the Chilcot report into the Iraq war, it is not right that reports paid for out of public money are not made available to the public on such vital issues as soon as possible, particularly ahead of a general election.”

 Read more about this story here.

3) Occupy Democracy protestors given go ahead to challenge Boris over Parliament Square fencing

Occupy Democracy returned to Parliament Square this weekend on a day that coincided with the thousands of Londoners at the Climate March, with the good news that they have been given permission to challenge Mayor of London Boris Johnson over the decision to erect a fence halfway through a 10 day Occupy demonstration, prohibiting peaceful protest from continuing.

Protestors were told that the fencing was required for maintenance of the grass, but the area was quickly extended, forcing the protestors further and further away. Occupy Democracy went to great lengths to ensure there was no littering and an alcohol free zone. There were also never so many protestors to inhibit others being able to join them or dominate the area.

“Rosie Brighouse, Lawyer for Liberty, said:

“The UK has a long, proud history of holding the powerful to account, and the right to protest peacefully is enshrined in law in our Human Rights Act. Unfortunately that can be something of an inconvenience for those in power.

“The Mayor’s flagrant disregard for one of our most fundamental freedoms, on the very doorstep of the palace of power, cannot be allowed to go unchecked – so we’re delighted the courts have seen fit to review his actions.”

Read more about this story here.

4) Boris Johnson’s ‘duplicitous claims’ over vanity project revealed

London’s ‘garden bridge’ project was billed as a free gift for London, but a confidential letter leaked to the Guardian has revealed the public purse is obliged to pay the £3.5m maintenance costs yearly on top of £60m committed funds.

This goes against everything Johnson has publicly promised about the project, which now is causing a strain on transport funds while he sells it as a ‘sponsored gift.’This is also amid growing austerity, poverty and social cleansing in the capital, and while Boris makes attempts to shut down the voice of the public as above.

Read more about this story here.

5) Paul Mobbs arrested during citizens’ arrest of Cabinet

Environmental researcher and consultant Paul Mobbs was arrested under the Terrorism Act last week outside 10 Downing Street while he tried to arrest the Cabinet for Misconduct in Public Office. Watch this brilliant video detailing how Paul Mobbs went through with the action, giving great advice on how to deal with police and law at a time of institutional ignorance to human rights and corruption:

 

Update:

‘Paul has now been released from Charring Cross police station. He has officially reported a crime (misconduct in public office) which the police are now duty bound to investigate and he has provided them with everything they need to investigate the crime. He is now setting off home and should be back in Banbury in a few hours. He is going to celebrate by going for a walk tomorrow.’

 Read more about this story here. 

6) Wannabe Tory leader says it’s ‘impossible’ to raise family on £67k

Millionaire Windsor MP Adam Afriyie became yet another example of out-of-touch MPs after he claimed that it was ‘impossible’ to raise a family on an MP’s salary of £67k.

Afriyie said that MPs salaries and expenses should be scrapped and they should be given an allowance of £225,000 a year to spend however they want, adding that if wages from 1911 kept pace this is the figure MPs would be on. He failed to mention the rate at which the minimum wage would be if it had not been stifled by governments, or the rates of pay for nurses and care workers had they not been kept down by successive governments and environments of austerity and stagnant wages.

Read more about this idiot here.

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1) Judge rules work programme ‘incompatible’ with human rights

Retrospective law changes made by Iain Duncan Smith and the Department for Work and Pensions, following flaws identified by three judges in a case that involved the use of workfare in Poundland, have been deemed in contravention of European Human rights laws. Human rights lawyers say the ruling is a “damning assessment” and if the appeal is upheld, government will owe jobseekers £130m.

Appeal judges agreed that “the 2011 regulations failed to give the unemployed enough detailed information, especially about sanctions, including loss of jobseeker’s allowance, for refusing jobs under the schemes.”

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To avoid re-paying jobseekers for unfair sanctions and withdrawal of benefits, Iain Duncan Smith changed the laws retrospectively – a callous abuse of his position to avoid giving any justice to the unemployed people who had been unfairly treated.

Iain Duncan Smith will, unsurprisingly, appeal against this decision.

Iain Duncan Smith is also appealing a third time against a decision to release a report problems of the Universal Credit scheme – a flagship policy that has seen hundreds of millions of pounds wasted. All of these appeals are paid for by the public purse.

Read more about this story here.

2) Police begin inquiry into treatment of protestors at Westminster Abbey

Last week, we posted an account by Rob Punton, from Disabled People Against Cuts, about his experience at Westminster Abbey when the group attempted to start a protest against the closure of the Independent Living Fund.

300 police kettled 100 protestors

300 police kettled 100 protestors

Rob Punton also posted his experience on his blog, and detailed that police would not allow food, water or medication into the site, where some 300 police surrounded 100 protestors.

Metropolitan Police are now launching an inquiry into the treatment of protestors at the site.

Read more about this story here.

3) Calum’s List an important resource in understanding the effects of welfare reform

Calum’s List, a website dedicated to remembering the people who have committed suicide as a result of welfare reforms or delays and which was shut down last month, is a ‘valuable resource.’

“It includes cases such as that of Martin Rust from Norwich, a schizophrenic who had been found fit to work by a DWP assessment, and committed suicide two months later. The Coroner cited the “distress” caused by the DWP’s decision as a contributory factor in his decision to end his life. And that of Elaine Christian, who was found dead in Holderness Drain after self-harming and taking an overdose. The inquest heard that she had had to stop work because of poor health and was worried about a medical appointment to assess her eligibility for disability benefits she was due to attend the next day. Vicky Harrison, a 21-year-old who took an overdose after being rejected by what her family estimated to be around 200 jobs in two years. Her case is one of the few on the list to have been reported by the national press.”

The list is important as many of these stories may be reported by local press, but are often not picked up by national media, and this sort of body of evidence is vital in ensuring we understand what is taking place.

Read more about this story here.

4) UK needs 4 day week to combat stress, says leading doctor

One of the UK’s top doctors has called for a move to a four day week to reduce stress, allow people to spend more time with family, and to reduce unemployment.

Dr John Ashton added that this would also benefit people’s health.

“When you look at the way we lead our lives, the stress that people are under, the pressure on time and sickness absence, [work-related]mental health is clearly a major issue. We should be moving towards a four-day week because the problem we have in the world of work is you’ve got a proportion of the population who are working too hard and a proportion that haven’t got jobs”, Ashton said.

“We’ve got a maldistribution of work. The lunch-hour has gone; people just have a sandwich at their desk and carry on working,” added the leader of the UK’s 3,300 public-health experts working in the NHS, local government and academia.”

Read more about this story here.

5) Glenda Jackson makes an excellent speech speaking out against Iain Duncan Smith and DWP

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Last weekend, Disabled People Against Cuts set about starting a protest in the form of a three week camp at Westminster Abbey, to run till the end of Parliament in action against the closure of the Independent Living Fund. The camp disbanded soon after it began, when the Dean of Westminster Abbey John Hall, called police to the scene to physically remove those chained to the gates. We spoke to Rob Punton from DPAC about what happened at the camp, the Church of England, the ILF and the future of the campaign. Here in his own words, Rob explains what happened and why he is forced to continue with action.

Image: @TheSilentAnon

Image: @TheSilentAnon

The Independent Living Fund…

“I was one of the first people to claim the Independent Living Fund. I’ve been claiming the ILF since 1988. Why it’s important to me is because it allows me to carry on with my independent living, and it allows me to do the social part of living not just the personal care part. It allows me to go out with friends. It allows me to go out and take part in community activities. The money has not been ring-fenced. We’re all scared we’re all going to end up with just home care and being marooned, if you like, in our own homes, not able to get out and take part in community activities and carry on with a fulfilled life.

“It’s like a care package. The local authority pays two thirds of your care package and the ILF gives you a third, but as we know most local authorities are struggling so if we lose the ILF, a third of our money could be lost.

“It was actually Maria Miller who announced it in 2010. She said the ILF was going to close in 2015. We’ve been fighting for this to get it stopped for five years, and when the people took the thing to High Court and won the case we thought we got a victory, but of course, Mike Penning MP decided to ignore what the High Court said, which has forced us really, to take more action.”

The Camp at Westminster Abbey

“I was down at the camp but I was locked out on the main street. I didn’t get inside the camp, I was outside the gate.

“The camp ended because we went to Westminster Abbey because we made the assumption that the Church of England, who had already spoken out about the government and about the austerity cuts, was supportive and would allow us to camp out on their property. But of course, as soon as we got there, John Hall, the Dean of Westminster Abbey, came to say that we weren’t welcome on his property and called the police to come and physically remove us. So that’s why there was 300 policemen for 100 protestors. They kettled everybody in and refused to allow food, water and medication in to the protestors so they were forced to leave early.

“I was actually out on the gate with my PA and a protestor came over and asked us to pass his medication over. We tried to pass it over. I tried to push this bag back over and police actually pushed my PA and pushed this guy needing the medication apart and he was really aggressive towards people, and like I said refused people water, food and medication.

300 police kettled 100 protestors

300 police kettled 100 protestors

 

“Inside the camp there were 100 protestors, and there were 300 police. And that was just normal police. Later in the afternoon they sent ones armed with guns into the camp and they were marching around with guns halfway through the protest.

“The Dean was cowering in his cathedral behind closed doors and wouldn’t even come out and face the media. He just locked the doors to the Abbey and let the police deal with things.

“We’ve been shown that they’re the Church of the Establishment. That’s what CofE stands for now, because they obviously don’t give a monkeys about the people of Britain. They talk about standing up and fighting for normal people, but when it comes to doing things on the ground, they cower away. We’re disgusted and we’re considering writing a letter putting forward a proposal to get the Dean of Westminster removed from his post because we don’t think he’s right. He talks about Christian morality but he hasn’t shown much Christian morality in this situation.

“What’s even more alarming is that this man is supposed to be the chair of a disability organisation but when it came to supporting disabled people in the street, he turned his back on them, so it doesn’t say a lot about the way he looks at disabled people.”

The Media

“Mainstream media belongs to the government anyway. So the BBC and ITV and people like Sky only report what the government want them to report. Obviously, the austerity cuts that everybody is facing are not just being reported to the general public so we have to use social media to get it out there.”

Image: Rob Punton

Image: Rob Punton

What now?

“There’s another demonstration on Friday 4th July outside Parliament and we’ll continue to escalate the situation and take it forward. Luckily we’ve got some good support form Occupy and got some links with community groups to work together to bring down this government and coalition.

“The alternative of losing is dire consequences for everybody because the government have proved they have no regard for anyone at all.”

If the closure of the ILF went ahead…

“There are thousands of disabled people who have got no power. What you’ve got to remember is that while people like myself are going out and protesting, a lot of people are not in the position to do so and they are the ones being socially imprisoned in their own homes and being institutionalised and isolated from society. And we’re worried that because of the growth of urgency, we’ll leave a lot more people vulnerable and open to abuse in their own homes.

“I think we have to stop blaming the most marginalised people in society for society’s problems, because while we’re getting angry about benefit claimants we’re losing the NHS. It’s the banks and businesses that need to take responsibilities and we need to ensure that big companies like Amazon and Boots pay their taxes. If everybody paid their taxes, the money would be there to help people. We need to have proper assessments from people who know about the people who need assessing and we need to start talking to disability organisations and disabled people to include them properly and get social justice for everybody and not just the powerful, rich and the strong.”

Find out more about DPAC here.

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Tomorrow will see a National Day of Protest against the French healthcare firm ATOS, with over 65 demonstrations happening all over the country at ATOS centres.

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ATOS are given £100m a year to administer the Work Capability Assessments, as part of the coalition’s programme to move people off benefits, through more difficult criteria rather than assessments of need.

The WCA uses a few basic questions to assess the extent of a person’s ability to work. Questions asked include whether a claimant is able to walk 200 metres and whether they can lift either arm above their head. The claimant is then given a score of between 0-15, with 15 as a high rate of disability and 0 as minimal. These scores are then used by the Department for Work and Pensions to assess whether to ‘award’ a claimant the Employment and Support Allowance.

The government say the assessment is designed to find out what a person can do rather than what they can’t, but the assessments leave a huge gap of understanding in whether a person can take on work. Evidence from investigations and claimant experiences show the tests are discriminating and are motivated by the desire to move people off benefits by re-defining the criteria for the ESA rather than supporting them into work if they can.

The cost of ATOS

The government has been handing over £100m a year for ATOS to carry out the assessments nationwide. But, ATOS had breached it’s contract even before it was signed. ATOS had promised they would provide, with 22 sub-contractors, 750 testing centres up and down the country to enable easy procedures and a maximum 60 minute travel distance for all claimants. However, the number of sub-contractors had dropped to 8 at the time of signing the contract, and the DWP has failed to reveal exactly how many of the centres they have provided.

Occupy News Network

Occupy News Network

Appeals

Appeals against ATOS have revealed a broken testing system which unneccesarily puts sick and disabled people through stressful procedures. Around 2/5 decisions made by ATOS are appealed against and around a third of these appeals overturn the original decision.

Earlier last year, the tests were branded ‘farcical’ for telling nearly half of those with progressive diseases, such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis, that their condition would improve.

The appeals could be costing the taxpayer a further £50 million for some clearly inexcusable decisions.

Discrimination of those with mental illness

Mental health charities such as Mind, Re:think Mental Illness and the National Autistic Society along with some disabled claimants, won a lengthy battle against the Department for Work and Pensions at the beginning of last year. The charities and support groups helped to give evidence on behalf of those they helped, against the WCA in a case that lasted two years. The Upper Tribunal ruled that the WCA disadvantaged those with mental health problems.

However, the DWP and ATOS appealed against the decision which was upheld at the end of last year, at the expense of more of the taxpayer’s money and a continuance of the testing system which was discriminating those with mental illness.

Lives

Put simply, ATOS testing has been fatal for thousands of sick and disabled people in the UK. In the year 2011-2012, 10,600 disabled people died within six weeks of their claim ending.

The DWP has refused to release the data for the year 2012-2013.

This number is likely to be higher. And this refusal of release of information is hiding the true extent of the deaths ATOS testing is causing, in a bid to save face for the government at the expense of people’s suffering.

Still, there have been many examples in the media of negligent decisions at the hands of ATOS:

“Lyn’s husband was seriously ill for 24 years with a badly injured back, a heart condition and diabetes.

“She said Atos decided he was “capable of limited employment” and his benefit was cut, leaving them with just £71 a week. He appealed but was told a ruling would take almost a year.

“David didn’t have a year. He was later diagnosed with cancer and given weeks to live.

“In the short time he had he battled to reverse the decision. “He kept saying ‘I wish I could win this case before I die’,” said Lyn, 57.

“David got a very rare form of cancer, it took his sight and his hearing, then finally his life. But months before that Atos took his dignity. His doctors and specialist nurses wrote to the firm but never received a reply.”

“David, 57, was called to his Jobcentre late last year. Lyn said: “They just took his blood pressure. They never checked his back or asked about his diabetes and the terrible ulcers he had on his legs.

“We were told it would take 10 months to hear the appeal. Well it’s 10 months now, David’s dead and we still haven’t heard a word.”

Daily Mirror

So on Wednesday 19th February, a national protest will take place against the treatment and huge number of deaths at the hands of ATOS.

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Image: Community Press Group

A short statement by the founder of the website atoskills.tk in reply to Atos:

“Atos have issued a statement on their website with reference the demonstrations   This statement alludes to the fact that the Company (Atos) were merely following DWP orders and that they are aware that their actions have deeply affected lives, an understatement in view of the deaths.  Atos in this statement seek to shift blame as many have done in the past in Court trials with the excuse ” I was only following orders” this is reminiscent of Nuremberg.

“Thousands have died and Atos played a major part in the policy actions of those deaths. It is unacceptable to state we were only following orders whilst taking millions of pounds for that action and knowing it was deeply affecting lives to the extent it caused major fatalities. I will agree that they are not alone in being culpable but the statement is an admission, in part, of responsibility.

“Following orders, knowingly, in committing acts that result in the deaths  of many disabled people is perhaps genocide but can also be equated to contract killing. Atos have acted as hired hitmen of this Government.

“At the bottom of this page you will find a video of Atos staff  training where it is clearly stated Atos assessors were working to targets, they say from the DWP which was denied by that department.

“No threats have been made of disruption to Atos nor to staff members, it is intended as a peaceful demonstration to draw public attention to a travesty that has caused multiple deaths that no one has so far investigated or stopped.

“The DWP’s own data shows 10,600 deaths in an eleven month period during 2011, a cause for concern and investigation at minimum.

“Blood is on the hands of Atos, it’s staff, the DWP and this Government.

“This statement is my own opinion and not one belonging officially to the organisers of the demonstration.”

Here is the video:

Here is the full Dispatches episode the filming was lifted from.

See a full list of demonstrations here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Energy Prices: The Facts

kamsandhu —  November 26, 2013 — Leave a comment

Today, Fuel Poverty Action will stage a demonstration against the Big Six, outside the Npower offices. You can find out more info about the event here.

Energy prices have gone up 37% since 2010 – eight times the average wage increase since then. The decision of heating or eating is a very real prospect for many families and individuals up and down the country, as the number of people using foodbanks also continues to rise.

With the Big Six Energy companies, who are Npower, Scottish Power, E.On, EDF, British Gas and SSE, increasing their prices by a further 8-10% just before winter, the rates of fuel poverty continue to rise and over 24,000 elderly deaths are expected as a result of cold homes.

Image: The Guardian

Image: The Guardian

The energy companies insist that the reason for the steep increases is due to wholesale price rises, but this is not true. As this graph shows, wholesale prices have actually gone down since the recession first hit in 2008 (thanks to Tom Pride’s blog):

Image: Pride's Purge - tompride.wordpress.com

Image: Pride’s Purge – tompride.wordpress.com

When Ed Miliband promised to freeze energy prices for 18 months should he be elected in 2015, he was shouted down by Conservatives who claimed this could not be done because energy companies could raise prices before and after. Still, this brought the struggle to meet these bloated price rises to the forefront, and also highlighted the extent to which the country is being held to ransom by the Big Six.

Cameron now wants to drop the ‘green levy’ having been put under pressure to deal with the cost of living. But this is another step in the favour of energy companies and not the public.

The ‘green levy’ or Climate Change levy makes up around 9% of the average bill, around £112 of £1267 yearly bill. This money goes to creating renewable energy sources such as wind-farms and solar power as well as money towards helping the elderly and the poor with their bills.

Dropping this levy has been lobbied for by the Big Six, and the impact will only serve to bolster their profits, whilst energy alternatives are pushed further and further back, and money is taken from those that already desperately need it and will need it even more following the price rises. Dropping the green  levy does nothing to stop or challenge the energy companies in charging anything they want. This is a cowardly and short-sighted move by Conservatives to avoid upsetting the Big Six.

Allowing energy companies to become this powerful and collude in raising prices has highlighted a huge problem in privatisation and the selling off of public services. A recent YouGov poll showed that much of the public would like to re-nationalise many of our services including energy and railways:

Support for nationalisation

Meanwhile, thousands of people are continuing to face the decision of whether to heat or eat. This is why Fuel Poverty Action is protesting today, as energy price rises sign the death certificates of the most vulnerable this winter, in the name of profit. To combat the power which the Big Six hold over Britain, government need to make some bold steps to regain parts of its services. Dropping the green levy will not help our future resources or the most vulnerable and it won’t stop the energy companies from continuing to hike up their prices.

 

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

1) Red Cross launches emergency food aid plan in Britain

For the first time since the end of the second world war, the Red Cross will collect food for hungry Britons this winter as the economic downturn and cuts to welfare push more people into poverty, forcing them to turn to food banks.

The Red Cross will send out volunteers into supermarkets at the end of November and ask shoppers to donate dry food. The food will then be distributed by FareShare, a charity already working with Britain’s largest food bank – the Trussell Trust.

Around 500,000 people now rely on food banks across the UK, a number increased from 40,000 last year. As austerity cuts deeper and winter approaches, families are expected to find it even more difficult to make their money stretch with increased heating bills. The Trussell Trust and other food banks worry that they may not be able to cope with demand, and asked for help and a plan for the coming months.

Image: backbencher.co.uk

Image: backbencher.co.uk

Some Tories seem to shrug off the link between the welfare cuts and increased use of food banks, with Michael Gove commenting that those struggling simply need to manage their finances better, and Lord Freud said that families were simply after a free meal.

Bekele Geleta, the Secretary General of the International Federation of the Red Cross, warned governments, saying “While we fully understand that governments need to save money, we strongly advise against indiscriminate cuts in public health and social welfare, as it may cost more in the long run.”

Read more about this story here.

2) New campaign speaks out for benefit claimants to ‘change the debate’

Over 70 charity organisations have joined to launch a campaign that aims to ‘change the debate’ on benefits and welfare because damaging media and government rhetoric is causing people to deny and feel shame about asking for help and what they are entitled to.

The campaign website says:

“We all need support sometimes. Yet too often those who have been helped by benefits get ignored, misrepresented or at worst blamed for their situation.

“But if the millions of us who have needed benefits share our stories – and those who haven’t express their support – then together we can change the debate.”

Image: Who Benefits?

Image: Who Benefits?

You can visit the website here.

3) Cabinet shake up receives mixed response from disability campaigners

Disability Minister Esther McVey has been replaced by  Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, a former spin doctor who worked for Iain Duncan Smith. McVey has been promoted to Employment Minister replacing Mark Hoban who was recently sacked, which means she will still have a large role to play in disability welfare and is also handling the department that runs the controversial Work Capability Assessments.

Labour’s Liam Byrne has also been replaced as shadow work and pensions secretary by Leeds MP, Rachel Reeves. The move was welcomed by many disability campaigners who believe that Byrne had followed the Tory Party hard line on social security spending and welfare reform.

“A DPAC spokeswoman said: “Byrne may latterly have started raising the devastating impact of so-called welfare reforms on disabled people, but it was too little too late.

“Byrne represented a New Labour approach barely distinguishable from the Tories in being tough on welfare when what we need is an opposition that defends social security and challenges rather than reinforces myths about shirkers and workers.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne Image: The Guardian

Ex-Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne Image: The Guardian

Read more about this story here. 

4) Government adviser says expensive Work Programme is failing disabled people

Liz Sayce, head of Disability Rights UK, has called on the government to re-think it’s expensive Work Programmes and plans to help disabled people find paid work, as the current systems are failing the most vulnerable in society.

According to data released last month, 93% of disabled people within the work programme failed to find work. Sayce, a government adviser said the Work Programme was “a non-work programme – at best it is heading for an 88% failure rate with people on out-of-work disability benefits. Some providers do very good work, but perverse incentives stop them spreading it. Disabled people want to play a more central role, working with employers, to secure job and career opportunities and use their talents, to the benefit of everyone.”

Read more about this story here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

In the second part of our interview with Paula Peters and Sean McGovern from DPAC, we talk about the work they do, what they are fighting, and the effects of the austerity measures. You can hear the audio or read some of the quotes below. 

DPAC Campaigners at a protest. Image: Demotix.com

DPAC Campaigners at a protest. Image: Demotix.com

“Jeremy hunt is trying to do that at the moment with the Lewisham A&E decision. He’s trying to re-write the NHS Act of 2006 so that he can downgrade Lewisham and plunder the trust. And I think what surprised them was the most prolific campaign we’ve seen for quite some time, on our NHS, on anything. And it really got out in the public conscience. It got everywhere.”

Paula Peters

“The other thing with this, it’s very dangerous at the moment, it’s been creeping on us in the last year or two, is the incidents and frequency of bad news stories about the NHS. It’s right that poor practice is exposed. But, this is a pattern building here. And this is exactly what they did with British Rail. They made it into such a crap service by disinvestment, non-investment.”

Sean McGovern

“I would not be here if it wasn’t for the NHS and the life saving surgery. My parents both worked for the NHS, and I think Bevan knew a long time ago when the NHS was founded, when he said that the NHS will exist as long as there are people with the strength and the faith to fight for it. I think right now, he’d be really, really proud of seeing thousands of people come out on the streets in Lewisham, in Stafford and all over the place, and seeing people get out there and fight for their hospital.”

Paula Peters

“Nelson Mandela’s quote is so important to me; ‘Nothing is impossible until it’s done.’ So I think don’t think nothing is impossible until it’s done. And we’ve got work to do, we know that.”

Paula Peters

On The Grey Vote: “He’ll [Cameron] keep them on board for the next election. And then it’ll be the pension. State Pension next.”

Sean McGovern

“One thing they can start in this country would be to build a million or two houses. People say it puts half a million building workers back to work, it goes further than that actually, because once you move in your new place what do you tend to do? You buy furniture. You buy a new fridge, buy a cooker. You might even buy new plates, wallpaper, carpet. It’s across virtually every industry. Insurance. Every industry. They did it in 1945, that’s what they did. Built a million new houses, and started up a welfare state, the NHS, universal education, all round about the same time, [with a deficit].”

Sean McGovern

“One of my highlights this year is going to be the visit to IDS’s [Iain Duncan Smith] house. We took a video of all his grounds and put it on Youtube and he’s really angry with us over that. You know, his flock of sheep, and his three tennis courts and his swimming pool, and we put an eviction notice on his door. And he’s very angry we got in there. He’s very upset about that. But sometimes you need to do these things, and say you’ve got eight bedrooms and you’re giving your friends a tax cut and we’re paying for that.”

Paula Peters

“People underestimate people power very, very much.”

Paula Peters

“If you can help somebody in the positions we’re in keep going another day, it’s one in the eye to this government that they haven’t died, and you’ve kept them going and inspired them to keep going. Because when you show strength to them, with what we all have and we all have impairments, that we’re fighting and we’re fighting for them as well as ourselves, you’re inspiring them to say ‘Yeah I can hold on one more day. I can fight back. I can appeal my assessment. I can fight for my care package. I can fight for my treatment in hospital.’ If we can inspire someone to do that, then I think we are doing something to get our message across. I hope more people do get what we’re trying to say and I hope we do get more people to come out with us.”

Paula Peters

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by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

Before the DPAC week of action began, we caught up with Paula Peters and Sean McGovern to talk about disability, welfare and ‘Reclaiming Our Futures’. In the last of our interviews with those from the week of action, we bring you this audio interview where Paula and Sean talk candidly about why they are protesting and what the future holds. In the first part of the interview, we ask why the week of action is so important, and what they wanted to achieve. You can listen or read some of what was said in the quotes below. 

Image: The Guardian

Paula Peters (facing the camera) Image: The Guardian

“Essentially, it’s educating the wider public, particularly our class. By our class I mean the working classes. The classes that have been disenfranchised by the government. The ones that they call, I don’t know, dispossessed. Those that don’t have anything, the ones that they accuse of being ‘scroungers’, people who for one reason aren’t working, maybe because there aren’t jobs out there, but that’s another story. So we need to get in with them, back working side by side, trade unions, communities, so that when the evictions do come along, and they’ve already started, we’re ready for them. We’re there. If necessary, we’re twenty, thirty, a hundred, a hundred and fifty people. Thing is, if that happens at every eviction, the bailiffs aren’t going to be able to contend with that.”

Sean McGovern

“The media really blocked our message right the way through. Although that is slowly starting to change with the bedroom tax, and the Work Capability Assessment. I would like to see a lot of things change around the Work Capability Assessment because I have been working very closely with the Mental Health Resistance Network on that, and I’ve lost many friends to the Work Capability Assessment and one of them was two weeks ago.”

Paula Peters

“I’ve kept some of the placards from a whole year of different protests, and I hope to keep them in the future for my nephews and nieces one day to look back, forty years from now, and see why we fought when we did, and why we tried for what we have now, Because if it wasn’t for people in the past fighting for our NHS we wouldn’t have that now. We wouldn’t have the employer’s rights we have now if people hadn’t have fought for those.”

Paula Peters

“We are chipping away at the establishment. The establishment is noticing. It’s noticing – not in a good way, but in a negative way. It’s noticing like ‘hold on a minute these people are beginning to get a little bit too serious, they’re getting too powerful how do we suppress this?’ They suppress this by closing down our facebook pages, by threatening, by making threats with court and threatening us with the law, and groups like ATOS – when we attack ATOS, they come out and they put injunctions on people. I’ve had stuff taken off my blog…anti-ATOS stuff. So they’re becoming rattled.

“The positive side is that the press are beginning bit by bit. You know we’re getting the Independent, the Guardian, the Mirror, from time to time even the Mail, you know. God forbid. What’s happening with the world when the Mail comes through with a positive disability story?”

Sean McGovern

“It’s vital to give people hope that we can achieve something. Hope is so vital. When you see people out there, and I deal with so many of them online, saying ‘I just want to give up now. We can’t win’. I think our focus has got to be our strength, which is what the government are terrified of. It’s the strength when we all unite together.

“I do think they are very scared of us. Hence the media blackout. Hence how they’re trying to gag us, and the thing is, it’s only making us more determined to get our message out.

“We want rights. They’re taking our rights from us.”

Paula Peters

“I’ve been on the receiving end of disability hate crime. The last four months I’ve had three attacks, because of the media rhetoric. I would like them to be able to give a more balanced view and say, ‘look this is what’s really going on, you need to be more measured and not so biased in your reporting.’

“Every week we just hear of more people dying, and that has got to stop now.”

Paula Peters

“Disabled people have spent millennia hidden in the shadows, in corners, put away somewhere. But we’ve come out of there the last thirty, forty, fifty years. And guess what these austerity measures aren’t going to drive us back to those places we escaped from. We’ve already tasted, we’ve felt the sun on our faces, we’re not going to go back to the shadows again.”

Sean McGovern

A previous protest by DPAC Image: dpac.uk.net

A previous protest by DPAC Image: dpac.uk.net

Look out for the second part of the interview on Thursday.

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1) MPs question Iain Duncan Smith on failing Universal Credit system and cover up of problems

After Labour seized a government auditor report on the Universal Credit system, which showed that the implementation was far behind its target and riddled with problems, Labour demanded that Iain Duncan Smith apologise for mis-leading Parliament and ‘consider his conscience.’

IDS was then made to answer questions from MPs on Thursday morning, regarding the cover up, the problems and the system itself.

IDS blamed the troubles within his £2.4bn reform on IT and his civil servants for not telling him of the problems;  “At the end of the day, you are only as good as the information given to you.” Whilst IDS took responsibility for the programme, he did not apologise for the problems within it so far.

Although the evidence clearly showed these issues had thrown the Universal Credit implementation off course, IDS continued to claim that the system would meet its target by the 2015 election.

Image: theweek.co.uk

Image: theweek.co.uk

Read more about this story here.

2) UN send senior official to investigate ‘bedroom tax’

Raquel Rolnik, a senior United Nations official, will be in the UK until September 11th to investigate whether the ‘bedroom tax’ will impact on human rights.

Ms Rolnik has been invited by the UK government, and will meet tenants, landlords, campaigners and academies in numerous cities around the UK including Manchester and Glasgow.

The Special Rapporteur on housing for UN, said that the UK faced a “unique moment” when housing was on the agenda. Ms Rolnik will reveal some of the findings of her investigation next week.

Image: Twitter.com

Image: Twitter.com

Read more about this story here.

3) A quarter of those becoming homeless are forced out of private rented accommodation

The latest government statistics reveal that a quarter of those becoming homeless have been forced to leave private rented accommodation and have nowhere else to live.

“Between April and June 2013, 3,580 households became homeless in this way, accounting for 27% of instances of accepted homelessness, an increase of 32% on the same period in 2012 (see table 774 here). Go back to 1998 and terminated tenancies accounted for 15% of homelessness; when the Coalition took power in 2010 it stood at 14%; now, latest statistics show, it is at 27% – an all time record level.”

Patrick Butler, The Guardian

4) DPAC take over BBC HQ building in protest against media 

Just in case you may not have heard about this, as ironically, the media were completely silent on the topic, but DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), Black Triangle and the Mental Health Resistance Network took over the BBC last week in a protest against the media treatment of disabled claimants.

Their press release said:

“Disabled activists from grassroots campaigns Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), Black Triangle and Mental Health Resistance Network have occupied the BBC building in London to protest against the role the media are playing in worsening attitudes towards disabled people and a complete failure to give space to the realities of what this government are doing to disabled people.”

The protest was part of the DPAC week of action which ended on 4th September with a handing in of their manifesto (‘Reclaiming Our Futures’) to government, on what disabled people want.

Great work.

Look out for our interview with Paula Peters (she’s in the first part of this video) and Shaun McGovern this week.

You can read the ‘Reclaiming Our Futures’ manifesto here.

Read more of the press release here.

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass

//

by Kam Sandhu @KamBass 

In the second part of our interview with Simone Aspis, policy campaigns co-ordinator for the Alliance For Inclusive Education, we talk about the work that ALLFIE does for disabled children and young people, and how segregated education affects society. 

Simone Aspis

Simone Aspis

Tell us about the work you do with ALLFIE. What are the problems you’re trying to tackle?

“I’m policy campaigns co-ordinator for the Alliance For Inclusive Education, which is an organisation run and controlled by disabled people that promotes inclusive education for all disabled learners. Regardless of ability, impairment and health condition we believe that all disabled learners must have the right to access mainstream education with appropriate support. Our organisation, even though it’s controlled by disabled people, our membership consists of parents, families, educational psychologists, schools, education providers, so we do have a range of allies within the education profession who believe in inclusive education based on the social model of disability, based on six demends for inclusive education that ALLFIE have, which are:

–       “Disabled people and young peoples’ rights to access mainstream education

–       “The right to access the appropriate support

–       “The right for disabled people to attend courses in accessible buildings

–       “The right that the course curriculum should be accessible for disabled learners – not just in terms of how information is provided whether in braille or  large print, but also, so that disabled young learners can work alongside their non-disbaled peers on the same course

–       “The right for qualifications to be fully accessible for disabled learners

–       “And that all teachers and all staff working in education provision should have disability quality training.”

“So those are the six demands we have for inclusive education and anybody who becomes a member supports those demands. So we use those demands to inform our campaign around inclusive education.”

What are you currently working on? 

“Since 2010, since the coalition government have come into government, there’s been an onslaught against inclusive education practice. It’s the first time really over a number of years that there’s now a steady decline of disabled children and young people accessing mainstream education. What we’re clearly seeing is a move from policies that support mainstream education moving much more to segregated provision.

ALLFIE

ALLFIE

“The big piece of legislation that we’re working on is the Children and Families Bill, and we’re focusing on the special educational needs framework, which is the legal framework that provides disabled children and young people with special educational needs (SEN) – the rights to access mainstream education, the rights to additional support, the rights to assessment, whatever they need to access mainstream education.

“So what’s happening now is, for example, disabled children and young people must be educated in a mainstream school. Underneath the new provision, in the Children and Families Bill, the SEN provision, that is changing so that any disabled child can be placed in a special academy outside the protection of the SEN framework, which means that no longer do families have that right to mainstream education. So local authorities can say ‘ah, no mainstream school wants you, we have a special academy for you.’ The special academies will obviously be motivated to take on all the children and young people that mainstream don’t want, and they’ll be outside the SEN framework – which is really important because what that means is that children can be placed into academies without a statutory assessment, without SEN, without needs being identified, without the additional support they may need. And more importantly, they won’t have the right to appeal against the local authority’s decision. So once a child is placed in a special academy, your rights go out of the window.”

“The second thing, also about the SEN provisions, is that the local authorities will have much more incentive to place children and young people into special academies, because it will cost nothing to the local authorities because it will be a school funded by the Department of Education. If they place that same child in a mainstream school and they need additional support, then the local authority will have to pay for the additional support. So there’s the incentive to place as many children and young people into the academies outside the SEN framework, which means families and children will no longer have the entitlement.

“The SEN will also allow for private special schools to become special academies and therefore funded by the Department of Education. So you’ll have more and more schools and colleges that are going to be able to become special schools and colleges funded by the state. More and more of these schools get funded by the state – less money available in the mainstream to support children and young people to access mainstream education right? Because the budget ain’t going to get any bigger. It’s the same budget and it means less money for mainstream, more money for special school provision, and therefore the implications will be and the assumptions are that more and more disabled children and young people will be and should be placed in segregated provision, which goes totally and utterly against the government’s UN conventions on the Persons with Disabilities, Article 24, which makes it quite clear that governments have an obligation to promote inclusive education and to develop the capacity of mainstream schools and colleges to become more inclusive for disabled learners. Therefore there is this contradiction that this Bill will be working against this. The government, whether they like it or not, they’ve signed the convention and they’ve signed Article 24, with provisions in there which basically say that this government have made a commitment to building an inclusive mainstream model, to deliver inclusive education practice, and we see absolutely no evidence of that whatsoever in the SEN provisions that are coming through Parliament now.

“So from our perspective, completely outrageous. This government are saying we want genuine choice of education provision for disabled people and young children. If that’s the case, the reality is you’ve got to ensure that disabled learners wanting to access mainstream have that absolute right to access mainstream education. And this bill doesn’t do it. If anything, it reduces disabled learners’ access to mainstream education. So what you’re going to find is more and more disabled people and children are going to end up being segregated from birth. They’re going to be much more segregated and isolated from mainstream society, and just have less opportunities than non-disabled people. What’s really important is the Commission for Equality of Human Rights made it quite clear in their reports that government should be looking into the effects of social isolation through segregated education provision, on both the lives of disabled people and society as a whole.”

Do you think the move toward segregation will have a huge effect on non-disabled people and their attitudes towards disabled people?

“Absolutely. If disabled people are not growing up with non-disabled people, how can we ever learn to treat each other with respect, with dignity, provide the opportunities, make the adjustments that are needed to be more inclusive?

“And also, through segregation you breed ignorance don’t you? There’s been an increase in disability hate crime. Is that increase in disability hate crime only just a result of welfare reforms and the crap that the media is putting out about disabled people but has that also risen because actually more and more disabled are now being pushed into segregated education against their wishes, and therefore through more segregation you breed much more ignorance, and therefore that does give rise to an increase in tensions in the community – disability hate crime is on the rise as a result.”

If you would like to sign ALLFIE’s six demands, find out more about ther campaigns or contact ALLFIE e-mail or visit their site through:

www.allfie.org.uk

Simone.aspis@allfie.org.uk

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