Ministers misuse figures, PIP changes could cause catastrophe, DPAC protest, Work Choice must go, Time for change says Tanni, Human Rights defense

So I’m having a discussion with my daughter about some queries on a company invoice. Anna my four-year-old granddaughter keeps interrupting the conversation. Using the very best assertiveness techniques that only children know she finally gets our attention.

Her mummy rebuked her, “It’s very rude to interrupt we were talking about important things”. Anna asked, “What important things?” “Money!” replied my daughter. Anna responded with “I’m more important than money!” Out of the mouths of babes. Wise beyond her years let’s hope she feels the same when she grows up.

Fortunately Anna doesn’t have to worry about some of the things reported below.

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News Roundup

Ministers ‘misuse’ figures to show UK ‘is world leader’ on disability spending

Work and pensions ministers have been making misleading use of international statistics in a bid to justify cuts to disability benefits and services, an analysis by Disability News Service suggests.

Esther McVey, the Conservative minister for disabled people, has told MPs how OECD (the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) figures show the UK government “are world leaders” in spending on services and benefits for disabled people.

And Lord Freud, the Conservative welfare reform minister, told fellow peers in June this year that the UK spends “almost double the OECD average” on disabled people, spending 2.4 per cent against the OECD average of 1.3 per cent in 2009.

McVey has repeatedly used the OECD figures over the last eight months to justify her government’s cuts to disability benefits.

Lord Freud also claimed in June that only two of the other 33 OECD countries spend more than the UK on disability.

The figures have also been used in McVey’s Fulfilling Potential disability strategy document, published earlier this year.

But the two ministers have only been able to make these claims through a selective and misleading use of the OECD statistics.

It is only the latest example of senior Conservative figures using misleading statistics in an attempt to justify their cuts to spending on disability.

The OECD table they have been using features one set of figures for spending on “disability”, and another for “sickness” spending.

But McVey and Lord Freud have only been quoting the “disability” figures, and ignoring those for “sickness”, which includes spending on employment and support allowance and incapacity benefit.

Once the disability and sickness figures are taken together, the UK does far less well.

Rather than there being only two OECD nations that spend more on disabled people – as claimed by Lord Freud – there are now six that are more generous than the UK: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

The ministers also fail to point out that the OECD average includes spending by countries such as Mexico, Chile, Greece, South Korea and Turkey, which spend very low amounts on supporting disabled people, and therefore skew the figures.

And if a comparison is made between the UK and all of its immediate OECD neighbours – Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Ireland – the UK’s spending is lower than average.

Where the UK spent 2.9 per cent of GDP on “disability and sickness” in 2009, its nine OECD neighbours spent an average of 3.2 per cent.

Andy Greene, a member of the steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said he takes “everything Lord Freud says with a pinch of salt”, and that the government had been shown to repeatedly “exaggerate”, “manipulate” and “lie” with its use of statistics.

Two months ago, DPAC released a report which it said showed how DWP and its ministers had made 35 claims that had “no basis in the facts”.

Greene said: “It is no surprise that the government would use and misuse and misinterpret figures, because that is what they do on a daily basis.”

The Department for Work and Pensions has so far failed to comment.
Government’s benefits advisers say PIP changes could cause ‘catastrophe’

The government’s own benefits advice body has warned that last-minute changes made to eligibility for the new mobility benefit could have a “catastrophic” impact on some disabled people.

The Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) says in a letter that some disabled people will “almost certainly” be forced to quit their jobs because they can no longer travel to work. Others may have to cut their working hours.

The committee says it is concerned about the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) lack of evidence on the impact of its decision to tighten the walking distance criteria for the enhanced mobility rate of the new personal independence payment (PIP) from 50 to 20 metres.

The letter adds: “For some, especially in rural areas where public transport tends to be less available, it may not be an exaggeration to describe the impact as catastrophic with more disabled people becoming increasingly isolated.”

Esther McVey, the Conservative minister for disabled people, was forced to launch a consultation into the change from 50 to 20 metres after facing a judicial review over her decision to tighten the criteria.

SSAC says in its letter that DWP needs to make a stronger case for the change to PIP, which is gradually replacing working-age disability living allowance (DLA).

In the letter to DWP’s PIP assessment development team, the committee also suggests that the consultation document should be expanded to cover the potential impact on disabled people who will lose their Motability vehicles as a result of the changes.

And it calls on the government to consider “in more detail the impact on unpaid carers, the potential shift of costs to other areas (for example employers, health service and social care etc), and the impact on the Motability Scheme”.

It also says it is “concerned that the rationale for reducing the threshold to 20 metres may not represent an appropriate gauge for drawing the line on where ‘those with the greatest needs’ lie”.

It says 50 metres is “long-standing” and “widely accepted” as an appropriate threshold, so the case for cutting it needs to be “stronger than that currently presented in order to persuade individuals that 20 metres is a fair and more appropriate measure”.

Jane Young, an independent consultant and coordinator of the We Are Spartacus online network of disabled campaigners, said: “I am encouraged and delighted that the SSAC response to the consultation is very much in line with our own views on the problem of using 20 metres as the threshold for the enhanced rate of the PIP mobility component.

“We really hope, given this and other helpful responses to the consultation from other organisations such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission, that the government will admit that 20 metres really doesn’t represent a basic level of mobility.”

Under DLA, a person is entitled to the higher rate of the mobility component if they are “unable or virtually unable to walk”.

Claimants are usually said to be “virtually unable to walk” if they cannot walk more than about 50 metres, but the changes to the regulations – suddenly announced last December without any consultation – saw the PIP mobility criteria cut from 50 metres to 20 metres.

The regulations state that claimants who can move more than 20 metres can still receive the higher rate, if they cannot do so “safely, reliably, repeatedly and in a reasonable time period”.

A DWP spokesman declined to comment on SSAC’s letter to avoid “pre-empting our response to the consultation”.

But he said in a statement: “Disability living allowance is an outdated benefit. Our reforms will make sure the billions we spend give more targeted support to those who need it most.

“It is not a tightening of the rules – the higher rate was always meant to be for those disabled people who are unable to walk or virtually unable to walk.

“We listened to disabled people and their organisations who wanted a further consultation, so that is what we have done.”
DPAC hopes history lesson will help reclaim the future from austerity

Disabled activists are hoping a week of protest action will inspire a new generation of campaigners to fight cuts to disability rights, benefits and services, by drawing on the successes of the past.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) is promising direct action, a march on parliament, an online campaigning “blitz”, and a debate on the future of the social model of disability.

The week of action, from 29 August to 4 September, will build up to the launch of the new Reclaiming Our Futures manifesto, which has been produced by DPAC, Inclusion London, the Alliance for Inclusive Education and Equal Lives (formerly Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People).

The manifesto is likely to include policies on inclusive education, employment, independent living, access, welfare, housing, and co-production.

Andy Greene, a member of DPAC’s steering group, said the week was important because it would “set out what we are for rather than what we are against”, and would show “that disabled people aren’t just about saying ‘this is rubbish’; we do have a clear vision of what would work for us and everybody else”.

DPAC says it wants to use the Reclaiming Our Futures week to “protest against the targeting of disabled people by austerity measures”, to fight for the right to inclusion and independence, and to celebrate the “value, pride and self-determination of disabled people”.

It is stressing that the history of the disability movement is “littered with examples of how our community has come together when under attack to fight – and win”.

The week will begin on Thursday 29 August with an “online blitz”, using email and social media sites including Twitter and Facebook to swamp possible targets such as MPs, disability charities and the media with their message.

This will coincide with Transport for All’s day of action, which aims to pressure Crossrail to make all of its stations accessible.

The following day – 30 August – DPAC is hoping there will be local protest action across the country.

On Sunday 1 September, two of the veterans of the disability movement – Anne Rae, chair of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, and Professor Colin Barnes – will be speaking at a debate in London on “reclaiming the social model”, with the event live-steamed over the internet.

The following day, DPAC is planning a direct action, although it has yet to announce the target.

The week will end on 4 September with the UK Freedom Drive. An anti-austerity protest march will begin outside four Whitehall departments – Education, Health, Energy and Climate Change, and Transport – with activists handing each one a list of demands.

The four blocks of protesters will then march on parliament, where they will launch the UK Disabled People’s Manifesto and present their demands to MPs.

In addition to the events DPAC has planned, it is hoping disabled people and their organisations will plan their own protests, exhibitions, debates and other events during the week.

Reclaiming Our Futures has the backing of other user-led networks and campaign groups, including theWOW petition, the European Network on Independent Living, Black Triangle, and the Mental Health Resistance Network, as well as the Unite disabled workers’ committee, the TUC, and a number of mainstream anti-cuts groups, including Occupy London and UK Uncut.
Work Choice must go, say campaigners

New figures show that the government should scrap its specialist disability employment programme and replace it with a more intensive, personalised system of support, say campaigners.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show that its Work Choice scheme has only been finding jobs for an average of two people a day who claim out-of-work disability benefits.

The figures also show that more than half of nearly 17,000 “job outcomes” produced through Work Choice since it launched in October 2010 have gone to people claiming no disability benefits at all, almost certainly those with the lowest support needs.

Between October 2010 and December 2012, only eight per cent of people referred to the scheme had found unsupported employment that lasted at least six months. The latest figures show that by June 2013 this had risen slightly but was still only just over nine per cent.

Andy Rickell, chief executive of Action on Disability and Work UK, said the figures showed the government must scrap Work Choice.

He said the money saved, together with funding from the Access to Work programme and the resources previously used to subsidise the Remploy factories, should be used to provide personalised budgets for disabled people to spend “as they see fit” on their own employment support.

Rickell, a former chief executive of the British Council of Disabled People, said: “What we have at the moment is a mish-mash. The Work Choice figures demonstrate that.

“It would be better to do something more focused and put this money into the hands of disabled people.

“I think if personalisation works [in social care and health], then why not personalisation in employment support? It would help disabled people to get work and to keep work.”

He said the current system – which provides support only as someone enters work – was in danger of creating a “revolving door” of disabled people who continually find jobs, and then lose them as that support melts away.

Rickell said the organisations providing Work Choice support were “struggling” to help those with significant support needs and so were scrabbling around for people with lower support needs to help into jobs instead.

Peter Jackson, deputy chief executive of another disabled people’s organisation, Breakthrough UK, said he was not surprised by the poor Work Choice results because the providers were not able to offer the necessary level of personalised support.

He said: “I just think there is a lack of appreciation of the barriers and just how far from employment some of those customers are and the sort of personalised support that is needed to help them play catch-up with people with lower support needs.”

His organisation has been running a scheme for Work Choice clients in parts of Manchester, under the Right to Control (RTC) programme of “trailblazing” pilot schemes, allowing each person to have full control of their own employment support budget.

Although the scheme is still in its early stages, he is convinced it allows a more personalised service, which “engages them and enables us to support those people”.

He added: “Particularly for those with high support needs or those who have been unemployed for a significant amount of time, they really do need an intensive level of dedicated support on a one-to-one basis… quality time with an employment adviser.

“The feedback we get from customers and others is that the default Work Choice offer is not sufficiently personalised.”

A DWP spokesman said Work Choice was a voluntary programme and supported disabled people “with complex barriers to employment and more intensive support needs regardless of the benefit they receive”.

He added: “Disabled people who do not receive disability benefits may still require specialist, tailored support to enable them to find and sustain employment.”

He said Work Choice results were “continuing to improve”, while DWP was taking action to “refine” its performance, for example by introducing a wage incentive to encourage employers “to give young disabled people a chance”.

He said: “We will continue to closely monitor providers to make sure improvements are implemented and performance is improved.”
It’s time for change at the top, says Tanni

Britain’s best-known Paralympian has called for more disabled people to be involved in running national disability sports organisations.

Baroness [Tanni] Grey-Thompson, winner of 11 Paralympic gold medals, called for action after a Disability News Service (DNS) survey revealed that most of the UK’s leading disability sports organisations were controlled by non-disabled trustees and directors.

The survey of 10 of the most influential organisations in disability sport was carried out after the British Paralympic Association (BPA) admitted to DNS that it only had one disabled person on its board of nine directors.

The survey found that disabled people made up 30 per cent or less of the board in six of the 10 organisations, while three had just one disabled board member.

Baroness Grey-Thompson, a BPA patron and now an increasingly-influential crossbench peer, said on Twitter this week – in response to the survey – that the control of disability sport by disabled people had been “declining for years”.

She also suggested that there were too few disabled people in paid employment with “elite” disability sports organisations, and too few disabled coaches, adding: “There has to be more coaches…. more opportunities.”

Last week, Richard Saunders, who chairs the British Amputee and Les Autres Sports Association (BALASA), said he would challenge BPA’s failure to have a more representative board, at its annual general meeting (agm) in November.

A BPA spokeswoman said the organisation supported the views of Baroness Grey-Thompson “as an overall ambition, just as we would support greater visibility and integration for disabled people in a range of fields”.

But she added: “Equally, appointments to any position should be made based on skill set, experience and various other appropriate qualities, not just on disability.”

She said that all BPA’s members could raise issues at the agm, and Saunders was “fully aware” of the “composition and process for determining the membership of the BPA board”.

She added: “As the representative of a member body of the BPA, Richard was also fully entitled to stand for election this year, or to nominate a candidate – which he did not do in either case.”

She said BPA was unable to comment on the number of disabled people on the boards of other disability sports organisations.
Campaign set for ‘inspiring’ defence of Human Rights Act

Disability charities are set to take part in a campaign they hope will help to save the Human Rights Act from being scrapped.

The Conservative party has consistently threatened to repeal the act and replace it with a new bill of rights, but has so far been unable to legislate because of opposition from its coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats.

Now a new campaign set up by the Equality and Diversity Forum (EDF) aims to promote the “fundamental values” that underlie the European Convention on Human Rights, and increase public support for human rights.

The Equally Ours campaign is being supported by seven charities, including Disability Rights UK, Mind and Age UK.

It is being funded through the Thomas Paine Initiative, which focuses on human rights and is itself funded by organisations including the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, and the Open Society Foundation.

The campaign is set to be launched later this year, as the Conservative party is reportedly preparing to publish plans to replace the Human Right Act (HRA) with a bill of rights.

In 2011, the coalition set up the Commission on a Bill of Rights, which reported in December 2012 but was split on its conclusions, with seven members saying there was a “strong argument in favour of a UK Bill of Rights”, and two arguing that their colleagues had “failed to identify or declare any shortcomings in the Human Rights Act or its application by our courts”.

In a document posted on EDF’s website, Equally Ours says that it will be “a beacon that humanizes human rights, inspiring everyone to feel that human rights benefit all of us here in the UK, every day, in very practical ways”.

It hopes to reach the one in two UK adults who are “conflicted about, ambivalent or uninterested in human rights”.

The campaign is hoping to win over at least three-quarters of the public to be “fully committed to supporting human rights and the laws that protect them”, and to transform perceptions of human rights as “suspicious, foreign and alien” to “essential for equality and relevant to us all”.

It also pledges to “crush complacency and stop human rights being taken for granted”.

No-one from Disability Rights UK was available to comment on the campaign, but in a statement it said: “For disabled people, human rights are about things like preserving family life: for instance, getting the support you need to live in the same residential home as your partner of 50 years even if funding decisions would place you in different categories of need; or having support before a mental health crisis, to avoid any need to be compulsorily detained when the crisis hits.

“That is why we are part of the Equally Ours programme, with other charities, to highlight the importance of human rights to disabled people’s day to day lives.”

When asked for its current position on the Human Rights Act, the Ministry of Justice said: “This government’s commitment to human rights is not in doubt.

“Human rights contain many of the basic rights and freedoms which have been fundamental to British law for centuries, such as the right to a fair trial, freedom from torture, freedom of speech.

“These rights are still vitally important today in Britain and throughout the world. Repeal or replacement of the Human Rights Act was not in the Coalition Agreement.”

The Conservative party was asked the same question and has so far declined to comment.

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com

Author: PhilFriend

Dr Phil Friend (OBE FRSA) himself a wheelchair user, is acknowledged as the UK's foremost consultant on disability matters. A powerful and highly popular communicator, his company – Phil & Friends – provides consultancy to many of the country's best-known companies. In addition to his professional activities, he is also a respected champion for equal opportunities and diversity in general, where his special blend of humour and direct speaking has won admirers from around the world.

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