So that’s Easter over then! Very nice too, plenty of good company and lots of nice food! Unfortunately the Easter eggs appear to have had a very strange effect on my waist line! My granddaughter had her first Easter egg! A momentous occasion followed by a massive cleanup operation! Chocolate is an interesting substance to remove from things!!
So we now have an election date. It will be very interesting to see how much attention those seeking our votes will pay to the needs of disabled people. I have a feeling I know the answer but being an optimist I’ll hope for the best. Here are the last stories untainted by election fever before we get inundated with election spin!
Work test plans ‘could blight lives of hundreds of thousands’
Government plans to start using its controversial work capability assessment (WCA) to test all those still receiving incapacity benefit (IB) could “blight” the lives of hundreds of thousands of disabled people, say critics.
Work and pensions secretary Yvette Cooper confirmed that the government would start testing the 1.5 million people still receiving IB from October, building up to more than 10,000 tests a week, with IB phased out by April 2014.
Since October 2008, new applicants for out-of-work disability benefits have had to undergo the new test – repeatedly criticised as too strict and inflexible by campaigners – in order to qualify for employment and support allowance (ESA), the replacement for IB.
This week’s announcement came as the government revealed minor changes to the WCA, following the long-awaited publication of an internal review.
The assessment should now be easier to understand and more sensitive to fluctuating conditions such as ms and mental illness, while some people, such as those awaiting chemotherapy or with severe mental health conditions, will be exempt from the test.
The Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) welcomed the exemptions but said the review does not reflect the problems the WCA is causing many disabled people, and the test remained “inflexible”, failed to recognise the impact of some impairments and “prevents people accessing tailored support to get work”.
A DBC spokesman added: “The Disability Benefits Consortium was asked to contribute to the review but is frustrated that concerns over the stringency of the assessment have largely gone unaddressed and opportunities for improvement have been missed.”
Neil Coyle, director of policy for Disability Alliance, a consortium member, said the review’s findings were “unacceptable” and failed to recognise the high levels of workplace discrimination that make it even harder for many disabled people to find jobs.
He added: “What is most worrying is that this pretence that [the WCA] is effective is going to blight potentially hundreds of thousands of people’s lives when you see migration from IB.”
Cooper also announced a series of other measures around welfare reform and disabled people.
There will be extra support for those who have been on IB for many years and are pronounced fit for work after taking the WCA, with compulsory jobs or work placements for those who don’t find work after two years on jobseeker’s allowance.
There will also be a guaranteed place on Work Choice – the specialist disability employment programme that will replace Workstep from October – for those on ESA who do not find a job after two years.
Those receiving ESA and considered able to take part in work-related activity will receive personalised support alongside a strict regime of requirements they will have to meet to continue receiving the benefit, with most expected to move off ESA within two years.
From April 2011, a new employment support programme for disabled people will replace Pathways to Work – which the government said was “not flexible or cost effective enough”.
And changes to the access to work programme will see larger employers pay a higher contribution towards workplace adjustments, subsidising the costs of smaller employers.
Cooper said: “This is a ‘something for something’ approach which gives people more help alongside a responsibility to take it up so that no one who is fit for work is left to a life on benefits.”
The DWP said it expected that its reforms to IB and ESA would produce over £1.5 billion savings over the next five years.
RADAR finds disabled people achieving high-flying success
A groundbreaking report has concluded that disabled people working in both the private and public sectors can and do reach the highest levels of seniority.
The disability charity RADAR heard from more than 900 disabled people in a survey of high-achievers, of whom more than 100 earned at least £80,000 a year. More than half of these high-earners had been disabled for over 20 years.
Despite the evidence of success, the survey – which also heard from more than 500 non-disabled people – found that non-disabled people were more than three times as likely as disabled people to earn over £80,000 a year.
The survey found that high-earning disabled people were likely to have benefited from mentoring and support from senior colleagues throughout their careers, but disabled people were less than half as likely as non-disabled people to receive such support.
The Doing Seniority Differently report also says that people with mental health conditions are less likely than other disabled people to earn more than £80,000 a year, less likely to be board-level executive directors, and less likely to believe they had had the same career opportunities as other employees.
And of those disabled people who could hide their impairments, only one in eight is open about it to the board or senior management team.
RADAR also carried out in-depth interviews with some of the disabled high-achievers, who said they believed disabled people could bring skills such as empathy, creativity, resilience and flexibility to their leadership roles.
Liz Sayce, chief executive of RADAR, who wrote the report, said these high-fliers had tried to improve their organisations and educate colleagues, “not waiting passively for access or cultural improvements”.
Sayce said: “When employers believe in talented disabled people, throw off risk-averse approaches, create cultures of openness, and offer mentoring – then many disabled people do indeed ‘fly high’.
“However, there is still a chasm of inequality between disabled and non-disabled people and it’s alarming that so many people feared that [if they were] open about their health condition or disability their careers would be jeopardized.”
Baroness [Jane] Campbell said the report “breaks new ground” by showing disabled people “what is possible” and offering “real learning on how to enable more disabled people to succeed”.
RADAR also launched Radiate, a network set up to allow disabled people working at senior levels to share skills, develop their talents and provide role models. The network is sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group, which supported the research.
For more information, visit www.radar.org.uk/doingsenioritydifferently
National Care Service white paper: government unveils plans
The government has laid out plans for a “National Care Service” (NCS), based on the principle of free personal care for everyone who needs it.
Although many of the proposals in its Building the National Care Service white paper drew praise, the government was fiercely criticised for postponing a decision on how its reforms would be funded.
Health secretary Andy Burnham described the proposals as “bold and ambitious”, an “historic announcement” and “the biggest change to the welfare state since 1948”.
He pledged “nationally consistent” criteria that will state at which point a person becomes eligible for support, and “portable” assessments, so disabled people could move to a different part of England and not face a reassessment of their needs.
Burnham said care would be free at the point of use for everyone who needed it, giving disabled and older people “choice and control over their own care and their own lives”.
He also promised to “push forward” with the personalisation of services. By April 2012, everyone approaching a council for support will receive a personal budget.
And he said the government would not help fund its reforms by scrapping attendance allowance (AA) and disability living allowance for those over 65 – at least for the lifetime of the next parliament.
Burnham said this was because of the strong opposition to such proposals from disabled people and other campaigners during the government’s “Big Care Debate”. The white paper’s equality impact assessment goes even further and says the NCS will be built around AA and DLA, “maintaining these benefits as a flexible form of support”.
Other pledges include “accurate, relevant and accessible” information about entitlements and assessments, and easier access to both social care and disability benefits.
The first stage of reform will be introducing free personal care at home for those with the highest needs, through the personal care at home bill.
The government hopes that two key concessions on the bill – delaying its implementation until April 2011 and agreeing that MPs and peers would have to approve its implementation after it became law – will be enough to secure its passage through the Lords.
The second stage of the reforms, from 2014, will see those staying in residential care for longer than two years receiving free personal care.
The government will also set up a commission to recommend the “fairest and most sustainable” way to fund the NCS and a “leadership group” of “expert stakeholders” to advise on implementing its reforms, and introduce an NCS bill early in the next parliament.
The final stage of reform will be the full introduction of the NCS with a new funding system, soon after the next but one general election.
The white paper is at www.dh.gov.uk
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com