The Conservatives’ solution for unaffordable care? No care

Barbara Keeley The Guardian 17th August 2017

Despite evidence that life expectancy may be stagnating, the century-long rise should be a cause for celebration. However, for too many people – unsure whether they will be able to afford the care they may need or to plan for the future – their later years are proving to be a time of fear and uncertainty.

UK needs 71,000 more care home places in eight years, study predicts.

Now we learn there will be insufficient care home places, even if people could afford them: 71,000 more care home beds will be required within eight years – according to a Newcastle University study – to meet the demands of an ageing population living longer, with complex care needs. But there is little hope that these places will materialise.

Residential and nursing homes are already under unprecedented pressure. By the end of this financial year, £6.3bn will have been cut from social care budgets since 2010, with local authorities facing a £2.3bn care funding gap by 2020. These severe cuts, along with rising costs and problems of retaining and recruiting staff, mean that one in six care homes is now displaying signs of financial stress, and across England residential homes are closing.

And in the coming months, the signs are that things will get worse. The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has reported that councils will have to cut social care budgets by a further £824m this financial year alone – meaning fewer older people getting the help they need with basic tasks such as washing, dressing and eating.

The Conservatives’ policy of cutting funding and leaving people to fend for themselves is simply not working. It has left us with 1.2 million older people living with unmet care needs, one in 10 facing catastrophic costs, and relatives forced to give up work to look after them. Although the Tories backed down from their “dementia tax” plans, more than 70% of people in residential care have dementia, and they face the highest care costs.

These harsh realities are brought home through the many cases I hear about, both in my constituency and in parliament. Cases like the woman whose homecare was cut suddenly from 10 hours a week to nothing. Her son had to step in to care for her, risking his job, which financially supported them both. Or the elderly people left without food or help with bathing when care staff did not turn up.

If this apathy towards the social care crisis continues, there is a risk not only of insufficient care beds, but of serious care failures.

In Labour’s manifesto, we set out comprehensive plans to tackle the short-term funding gap in social care, promising £1bn this year and £8bn over this parliament to stabilise the sector. This would enable us to close the funding gap, implement a living wage for care workers and enable an extra 36,000 people with high levels of need to receive publicly funded social care.

But we also recognised the need for a long-term funding solution to meet the needs of an ageing population. Labour’s national care service would be based on the principle of pooling risks, so that no one is left to face catastrophic care costs alone. A care cap would ensure those unlucky enough to develop conditions like dementia would not be penalised for doing so. And we would raise the asset threshold, so that no one loses everything they own, as well as introducing free end of life care.

Enough is enough. This government has had ample wake-up calls. Now it must give social care the funding it needs and develop a long-term plan to put the sector on a sustainable footing – so that today’s generation of older people and those to come get the care they need and deserve.

• Barbara Keeley, Labour MP for Worsley and Eccles South, is shadow minister for social care and mental health

Service user group intervenes in ‘Care Act breach’ court appeal

Equality and Human Rights Commission also makes submission in appeal brought by Luke Davey against ruling on care package cuts

August 16, 2017 in Adults, Care Act 2014

By Rachel Carter and Alex Turner

A service user group and Britain’s statutory equality organisation are to intervene in the case of a disabled man that could have significant implications for the application of the Care Act 2014’s wellbeing duty.

Luke Davey’s appeal against an earlier High Court judgment, which dismissed his case that Oxfordshire council’s decision to cut his care package breached the Care Act, will be heard in the Court of Appeal tomorrow (17 August).

Inclusion London, a charity for deaf and disabled people, has made a submission to the court to highlight the impact the case – believed to be the first legal challenge dealing with the Care Act’s wellbeing principle – could have on the lives of disabled people.

A spokesperson told Community Care that the organisation wanted to make it clear to the judges that this case “was not just about a single care package”.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has also made a submission to the court in relation to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and its “meaning and relevance” in terms of applying the Care Act.

‘Future care’

Davey brought a judicial review last year on the grounds that Oxfordshire’s decision to reduce his weekly personal budget by 42% was unlawful because it posed a direct risk to his wellbeing.

He argued that the cut could mean he would spend more time alone, which would cause him anxiety, and that it risked losing his established care team of 18 years.

The case was dismissed by Justice Morris in the High Court, who said it was understandable Davey objected to the cut, but there was “no relevant legal error” in the council’s actions.

Inclusion London’s submission focuses on two elements of the case. Firstly, that the judge held that Oxfordshire did not have to make “judgements about the future” when considering how the cut to Davey’s package would impact his existing team of personal assistants.

Secondly, it refers to Justice Morris’s reliance on the council’s assertion that a volunteer or family member would be available to take Davey on day trips, and his conclusion that Davey’s ability to take part in a wide range of social activities would not be affected.

The charity argues that both these conclusions are contrary to the Care Act statutory guidance on unpaid carers and wellbeing. Section 1 of the Care Act 2014 places a duty on councils to promote a person’s wellbeing when making decisions about their care.

It has urged the court to consider the underlying principles and intentions of the act and to recognise their fundamental importance to the lives and independence of disabled people.

‘Hugely significant’

Anne Novis, chair of Inclusion London, said the charity was intervening in the case because it wanted to “make sure the Care Act works for disabled people as it was meant to”.

She added: “Although the Care Act and the introduction of the wellbeing principle were meant to transform social care and put us and our wellbeing at the centre of the process, we know it does not happen in practice. Disabled people tell us their support packages are being cut to the bare minimum and their views don’t matter. Such cuts leave disabled people at risk of harm, and cause emotional, physical and mental distress.”

Louise Whitfield, partner at Deighton Pierce Glynn and the charity’s lawyer, added: “This is a hugely significant moment, because disabled people are intervening in proceedings to make their voices heard and ensure the law, designed to transform social care, works for them.

“This case is likely to determine how the wellbeing duty, which was introduced by the Care Act, will be applied in practice and what difference it will make.”

The Care Act and independent living

Article 19 explained

Article 19 of the UNCRPD, on ‘Living independently and being included in the community’, states:

States Parties to this Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that:

(a) Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement;

(b) Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community;

(c) Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to their needs.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s submission to the court, meanwhile, argues that the Care Act “represents a re-focusing of the statutory framework for the provision of adult social care, in accordance with the UNCRPD and in particular Article 19, which puts the disabled person at the centre of all decisions”.

Justice Morris’s High Court judgment, the EHRC argues, incorrectly emphasised the lack of direct rights and obligations created by the UNCRPD within UK law. The judge failed to recognise that the Care Act “intended to apply these principles and should be interpreted accordingly”, its submission says.

The document notes a government response to a 2016 UN committee report that criticised how well the Care Act aligns with Article 19, in the wake of welfare reforms and local authority budget cuts.

In the response, the government said: “The wellbeing principle is intended to cover the key components of independent living, as expressed in the UNCRPD (in particular, Article 19 of the Convention). Supporting people to live as independently as possible, for as long as possible, is a guiding principle of the Care Act.”

Rebecca Hilsenrath, the EHRC’s chief executive, described Davey’s case as an important one that would give disabled people a “louder voice” when their needs are being assessed.

“Disabled people must be able to live independently and take part in activities others take for granted,” Hilsenrath said. “When assessing the needs of disabled people the local authority should consider the person’s ability to have a social life and be an active member of their community, not just basic home care needs.”

Court vigil

Davey is appealing on the grounds that Justice Morris made “very significant errors” when rejecting his argument that a risk to his wellbeing would arise if his team of personal assistants broke up because of the proposed reduction in their terms and conditions.

The case will be heard at 10.30am on Thursday 17 August.

Inclusion London will stage a vigil outside the court from 9.15am.

Join the Chronic Illness Inclusion Project

The Chronic Illness Inclusion Project is a new research project aiming to capture the views, needs and aspirations of people with chronic illness. Sign up to get involved. In the longer term our ambition is to grow into a user-led organisation.

new project aims to give a voice to people with chronic illnesses that get overlooked and misunderstood by the systems that should be supporting us.

The Chronic Illness Inclusion Project is a research project aiming to capture the views, needs and aspirations of people with chronic illness. It is part of the DRILL programme of user-led research and is supported by the Centre for Welfare Reform. You can sign up to find out more and get involved here

“As a sufferer of chronic ill health, I fully support the Chronic Illness Inclusion Project. People with chronic ill health are forgotten by governments when designing policies and never mentioned. We are often hidden by the umbrella term of ‘disabled’. The impacts of chronic ill health are wide ranging, from severe fatigue and cognitive problems, to days spent in lots of pain. The effects have a huge impact on the day to day functioning of a person. Many spend long hours unable to sleep or sleeping for long hours out of sheer exhaustion. You really cannot grasp those impacts unless you are affected by chronic illness. It’s not just the physical issues, you have to store that energy up to even have a shower or even go out for the day and plan well in advance, only to spend the next few days paying the price for small bit of enjoyment. It is time our voices were heard too, instead of our voices being alone in the wilderness. It can be very isolating. I urge people to join and support this campaign.”

– Gail Ward, Disability Campaigner DPAC NE/Black Triangle Campaign

We are inviting people to sign up to our mailing list where we can keep you up to date with activities and opportunities to get involved. Currently we’re planning an online discussion forum for people who are interested in having in-depth discussions about the social and political aspects of living with chronic illness. But in the longer term our ambition is to grow into a user-led organisation. How this happens could be up to you!

It will take time because we are two people with chronic illness working very part time hours. But this is a lottery-funded project where numbers count so by joining us you can help to show what a large and overlooked group we are.

Find out more by signing up to the mailing list


Catherine Hale and Jenny Lyus.

More information:

Government bows to care provider pressure over sleep-in payments

HMRC enforcement action suspended following care provider warnings of insolvency

by Alex Turner on July 26, 2017 in Adults

The government has responded to warnings by care providers that HMRC enforcement action risked bankrupting the sector, by waiving fines related to backdated pay owed to workers for sleep-in shifts.

In what it described as “exceptional measures to minimise disruption”, the government also said it would temporarily suspend, until 2 October, all enforcement activity relating to pay for sleep-in shifts.

The decision comes in the wake of a tribunal ruling that residential care workers who routinely ‘sleep-in’ as part of on-call shifts should be paid the national minimum wage for those hours rather than a lower flat rate, as most traditionally had been.

Following the case, HMRC had begun demanding back payments of up to six years, which providers had warned could “collapse” a sector already facing an intense funding crisis.

Care sector bodies had been calling for an immediate freeze on HMRC action while clarity was sought on the issue, with guidelines on sleep-in pay issued by the government as recently as 2015 appearing to contradict the recent judgment.

A statement from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) said: “Social care providers play a vital role in supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our society and workers in that sector should be paid fairly for the important work they do.”

It added that the government “will continue to look at this issue extremely carefully alongside industry representatives to see whether any further support is needed and ensure that action taken to protect workers is fair and proportionate, while seeing how it might be possible to minimise any impact on social care provision.”

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, a group representing care providers, said: “I am pleased that HMRC will not be pursuing care providers for sleep-in payments. However, this is only part of the problem and providers may be required to pay years of back pay to staff who have done sleep-ins.

“The government must come up with a long term solution for this issue of sleep-in payments, including clarification about how this issue will be treated in the future, and if they will not allow sleep-in’s,  then they must make sure that the additional costs of waking staff are included in commissioning fees.”

But Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, which represents a number of care staff who work overnight shifts, slammed the decision as ministers “caving in” to employers and delivering a “huge blow” for low-paid workers.

“Each year, care workers are collectively cheated of £130m in wages, but this outrageous state of affairs has failed to prompt any meaningful reaction from the government,” Prentis said.

He added that there was “nothing” in the government’s plans setting out how to ensure care staff would receive back-pay.

“It sends out a message to care workers that they are of little value,” Prentis said.

Continuing Healthcare cost-capping

Disability United

Last October, we at Disability United became very concerned by a policy from Southampton City CCG which appeared to allow people receiving NHS Continuing Healthcare to be moved away from their home into a residential placement purely on the basis of cost, even against their will. The cost of a local alternative placement which would meet the individual's medical needs essentially acts as a cap for care-at-home costs.

A Freedom of Information request was sent to every CCG and the responses sifted through for similar phrases. We are concerned about 58 policies. Many CCGs did not respond, so it seems likely that there are more with similar policies.

The idea that scores of NHS bodies have policies which could result in disabled people being “warehoused” against their will seems unbelievable, but here is a typical example of the wording in some of these policies: “The CCGs will normally consider funding a care at home package to the equivalent value of an appropriate residential placement... The CCG may consider funding a care at home package costing up to 10% more than an appropriate residential placement where the CCG considers it appropriate for the patient to remain in his or her own home with a clinically sustainable package.”

The amounts of money involved may not always be particularly high. As a theoretical exercise, this calculation was performed:  A nursing home placement can cost around £450 per week. 10% of £450 would give £45 per week. Per year, 10% more would be £2,340 which is less than a second-hand Ford Fiesta.

There is no question that this is not in-keeping with the spirit of the Independent Living movement. It also flies in the face of government policy, which for the past few years has been focusing on finding more suitable accommodation and support for people with learning disabilities outside of long stay hospitals.

There is also the question of Human Rights: Are these policies consistent with Article 8 of the Human Rights Act 1998, Right to Private and Family Life? We are exploring this further.

If legal resolution were sought, we would need case studies. If your organisation or an organisation you work with has case studies, please email me at editor@disabilityunited.co.uk

Years of austerity have left personal assistance in ‘very fragile state’

By Disability News Service

The concept of personal assistance has been severely damaged by years of austerity and policies that have “degraded” the support mechanisms designed to enable independent living, leading figures in the disability movement have warned.

They were speaking at the launch of Personal Assistance Relationships, a research study which highlights how employing personal assistants can be empowering and liberating for disabled people, but also discusses the “complex” and “variable” nature of such relationships.

Baroness [Jane] Campbell, one of the pioneers of the independent living movement, a co-founder of the National Centre for Independent Living (NCIL), and now a crossbench peer, said the state of independent living and personal assistance was currently “very fragile”.

Kevin Caulfield, of Hammersmith and Fulham Coalition Against Cuts, said that the “fallout” from increased charging for support and the closure of the Independent Living Fund meant that “lots and lots of disabled people who had access to good personal assistance and independent arrangements, those have been destroyed”.

But in his borough, the Labour-run council had abolished charging, ringfenced the funding people had previously received from ILF,and set up an independent review of the decision by a previous administration to scrap a direct payments support service.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said that social care was now a “hot political issue”.

She said: “We have to grab that and make the most of it.”

 “I would hope any government would see that it is cheaper to support people in the community than to have them in residential institutions.

“Living independently in the community is what we all deserve.”

This is a shortened version the full article can be read here

New disabled MP accuses Conservatives of 'eugenics' policies to make disabled people 'suffer and die’

courtesy of the Independent 7th July 2017

The Conservatives have dismantled the welfare system and introduced a system of “eugenics” in an effort to make disabled people “suffer and die”, according to a newly-elected Labour MP.

Jared O’Mara, who has cerebral palsy, said the Government has “completely torn up the welfare system” by shutting down the Independent Living Fund and making cuts to disability and social care benefits. 

Mr O’Mara, who ousted former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg from his Sheffield Hallam seat, also declared his support for efforts to bring a criminal prosecution against Tory ministers over claims that the Department for Work and Pension’s (DWP) “fitness to work” tests have led to the deaths of benefit claimants.

The former school governor insisted the policies were making disabled people have suicidal thoughts.

He told Disability News Service (DNS): “A lot of people say you can’t use that word, but I will do: it’s eugenics. They want disabled people to suffer and die. That’s literally what’s happening.

“Disabled people are out there suffering and dying because they have not got the financial means and financial support and nor have they got the legal means to lead an equal life, or even to lead a satisfactory life.”

He added that reports that mentally ill people have been asked why they haven’t committed suicide by independence payment assessors support his claims. 

“How is that not eugenics? Putting thoughts of suicide into a disabled person’s head. It’s literally eugenics,” he said.

“I’m not going to shy away from it, people might say I am taking it too far, but as far as I am concerned, what I have seen and what has happened across the board, it’s been eugenics.“There are people just like me and people who have got conditions that make things even worse for them than mine does, and they are dying and they are suffering.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We have a proud record in supporting disabled people, including through the landmark Disability Discrimination Act.

“In the last three years, over 500,000 have moved into work and we continue to spend around £50bn a year on benefits to support disabled people and those with health conditions – more than ever before.”

In the wide-ranging interview with DNS, Mr O’Mara also said he “absolutely” supported efforts by anti-austerity groups to bring criminal proceedings against former DWP ministers Chris Grayling and Iain Duncan Smith relating to the fitness to work tests.

A disabled activist from the Black Triangle campaign lodged a complaint with Scottish police claiming the pair might be guilty of “willful neglect of duty by a public official”, but Scottish criminal justice agencies refused to investigate the matter in December. 

A DWP spokesperson said at the time: “It is important we make sure that people are receiving the right support, and they are not simply written off to a life on benefits.

“The Work Capability Assessment has been improved dramatically since 2008 following a number of reviews, including five independent ones.”

After a month in his role as Labour MP for Sheffield Hallam, Mr O’Mara said he has not been able to attend debates in the Commons chamber as he cannot stand for longer than 10 minutes.

The 35-year-old MP was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at six months old. The condition leaves him with severe fatigue and the right-hand side of his body is semi-paralysed. Mobility and standing for too long are issues and he needs bannisters on both sides of stairs.

The disability rights campaigner, who compares himself to Forrest Gump, previously said: “I’m this slightly eccentric, little bit weird disabled guy who keeps stumbling into large achievements.”

PIP Mobility- New Ambiguous Questions from Assessors

courtesy same difference JUNE 26, 2017

PIP MOBILITY...new and ambiguous questions from assessors....

We have been attending lots of PIP assessments lately and are concerned about the non adherence to PIP guidelines during questions about mobility.

What assessors seem to be consistently doing lately is asking claimants how long in minutes (not distance) they can walk before they need to stop. If you are asked this question our current stance is do not answer it if you have to guess wildly as it is an unfair question, instead tell them what you do know confidently and that is the distance you can walk before needing to stop and rest before carrying on. We are raising this issue with the DWP and IAS (formerly Atos) later this week during our weekly consults.

We find claimants are confused by this new line of questioning (how many minutes you can walk ) and end up guessing a time frame when pushed by the assessor, even more to the point, PIP guidelines go on "distance" not minutes and most claimants are able to estimate fairly well how many steps or what distance they can walk before they need to stop and rest.

What the assessors are doing is watching you walk for a snap shot (which is not reliably, repeatedly) to your assessment and then based on your answer of minutes concluding what distance they think you can walk. This will not stand up in court and will yet be another reason to add the list of reasons why we overturn 100% of our cases this year.

Whether it is new DWP guidelines based on Paul Grey's recent report or not, it is the wrong line of questioning and does not adhere to PIP guidelines and Welfare Law

Employers are happy to hire someone with Down’s Syndrome – but not to cough up come pay day

courtesy INews  22nd June 2017

A while ago I got a job in an office, but they didn’t want to pay me. This is normal for me. I’m 47 and have Down’s Syndrome. I have three voluntary jobs, I have given evidence in Parliament and I have more than enough experience for an office job. If employers do hire me they don’t want to pay me, but after years of trying to find one I can’t help but feel that a lot of people don’t want to hire me because I have a learning disability. If they do hire me, they don’t want to pay me. I’m not alone. Fewer than six per cent of people with a learning disability known to their local authority have a proper paid job. That’s very bad and it’s getting worse; so during the general election I was very happy to see the Conservative Party promise to get one million people with a disability into a paid job in the next 10 years. That’s a promise that could change thousands of people’s lives. But I am very worried that this promise will get forgotten. Desperate to earn our own money  that can’t happen: employment is a lifeline for people like me who are desperate to earn our own money. I do get help from the learning disability charity Mencap, and also my sister Jan, to look for work. Mencap gave me a job coach who helped my confidence and got me a lot of training and work experience but, still, employers are not willing to pay me to work. This sometimes makes me feel worthless, but I know I have a lot to give. I’m not a child I think it’s about stereotyping. People don’t think I can do it; but I can. I’m not a child. I deserve to have the same rights and opportunities as any other person looking for a job. The government needs to encourage employers. It’s just as much about training employers as it is training people with a learning disability. If you have never employed a person like me it may seem like a risk, but there are lots of benefits for companies who employ staff  with a learning disability. Helping people with a learning disability get qualifications and skills will also help. The more the government does to get people into jobs, then the less people will need benefits. Don’t forget about us Manifesto promises get broken or forgotten. Promises like this have been made before, but nothing has happened. If the government keeps on ignoring this and not doing anything, then thousands of people with a learning disability will lose the chance of a job. We will carry on being forgotten. I don’t want that. I want to have the same rights as everyone else.

Government must let service users and carers shape social care policy

by Peter Beresford  courtesy Guardian

22nd June

There can be no question that Theresa May’s disastrous social care manifesto policy played a major part in her election failure. However, the Queen’s speech suggests that she still far from finding a sustainable way forward for social care that will command popular support. The speech only included 14 vague and non-committal words on the subject: “My ministers will work to improve social care and bring forward proposals for consultation.”

Not only does this highlight the insecurity of her government and leadership. Much more importantly, it emphasises that any political party wanting to win the next general election will have to be prepared to listen carefully to service users and carers when developing their future social care policy proposals.

For all the talk of user involvement in health and social care, it hasn’t really happened in the past, but is clearly critical now. After the “dementia tax” debacle, no sensible politician is going to treat social care in such a cavalier fashion as May’s election team did. But taking it more seriously and giving it more priority is not enough on its own. Part of the problem has been that since Margaret Thatcher’s 1990 community care reforms, policymakers’ eyes have often been off the ball, because they have been at least as concerned with ideological commitments to privatising social care [pdf] as they have been with making it workable for people.

Thus the failure of prevention and personal budget policies and the continuing over-high levels of institutionalisation among older and disabled people. While there has been a lot of talk about the need to “integrate” health and social care policies, the same has conspicuously not been true of welfare reform and social care, with the former increasingly taking money away from disabled people and other long-term service users and making their lives more precarious, damaged and dependent.

The abrupt ending of a majority Conservative government committed to austerity and neoliberal small state politics creates a new opportunity to listen to service users and user-led organisations, as well as emphasising the critical importance of doing so. They have long been the most creative and innovative social care thinkers.

First they have repeatedly stressed the importance of putting social care on the same financial footing as the NHS if it is to meet the needs of the UK’s demography, which includes much greater numbers and proportions of older and disabled people. A diverse range of service users were brought together by Shaping Our Lives, supported by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2009, to explore proposals for funding social care for the future. They felt that a false divide between social care and health care was perpetuated by conflicting funding arrangements. Almost all thought general taxation was the best way to fund social care.

But this is only the beginning of the story. Social care service users – including people with learning disabilities, sensory and physical impairments and long-term conditions, as well as mental health service users – all stress that a much more social approach to care (and welfare benefits too) is needed. It should get beyond individual medical conditions and see beyond pathologising the individual for what they can’t do and support them to do all they may be able to. Our health and social care systems don’t currently do this. They don’t come in to help to maximise people’s opportunities to contribute – through work, family, involvement in their community – only when they judge they “can’t manage” any more.

For years the disabled people’s movement has tried to change our understanding of “independent living” from a traditional idea of “standing on your own two feet”, to having support to live life on as equal terms as possible with other people. But still our health and social care system are stuck in the past. The political party that wins the next general election is likely to be the one that signs up to this new vision of social care and support. And that will be the party that really does its homework, stops prevaricating, listens to service users and carers and their organisations and involves them fully and equally in its policy process.

Election 2017: Coalition of 80 charities unite to pressure party leaders over disability benefit cuts

INDEPENDENT 1st June 2017

More than 16,500 people and a coalition of 80 charities have signed a letter urging party leaders to put an end to disability benefit cuts.

Paralympians Kadeena Cox and Anne Wafula Strike and BBC Radio 1 DJ Scott Mills are among those to have signed the open letter to all the political parties, urging them to protect disability benefits from further cuts in the next parliament.

There are more than 13 million disabled people in the UK, who spend an average of £550 extra every month on costs related to their condition. However, charities in the Disability Benefits Consortium (DBC) say disabled people have borne the brunt of welfare reforms to the point where their benefits have been reduced or removed altogether.

Laura Wetherly, policy manager at the MS Society, which co-chairs the DBC, said: “Today, thousands of people across the UK are sending a loud and clear message to our politicians that the current welfare system doesn't make any sense.

“Too many disabled people have been stripped of the security and stability they need to live independent lives.

“The next Government must make sure no further cuts are made to disability benefits so that disabled people can rely on support without the constant fear of having it taken away.”

More than 50,000 people have had specially adapted motability vehicles taken away since personal independence payments (PIP) were brought in to replace the disability living allowance (DLA) in 2013.

Celia Johnson, who lives with multiple sclerosis (MS), lost her motability car after having her benefit downgraded last year.

She said: “I’ve fought for a long time to keep my independence with a condition like MS that's so unpredictable.

“It can’t be right that with a stroke of a keyboard, they can completely mess up someone’s life. This shouldn’t be allowed to happen.”

Nearly two-thirds of people rejected for PIP who take their case to an independent tribunal have the decision overturned in their favour.

Other issues include a £30 a week cut to new claimants in the employment and support allowance (ESA) work-related activity group, as well as problems with the work capability assessment, which tests people on whether they are fit to work.

Disabilities Minister Penny Mordaunt this week said this assessment treated people “like they’re in a sausage factory” as she pledged to reform it if the Tories continued in power.


Protesters bring ‘rotten PIP’ message to the core of Westminster

July 2016 Courtesy John Pring

Disabled people across the country have marched, stopped traffic and blocked the office entrances of government contractors as part of a national day of action that drew attention to a disability benefit they say is “rotten to the core”.

Campaigners believe the personal independence payment (PIP) system was only introduced as a replacement for working-age disability living allowance (DLA) as a way of removing disabled people’s entitlement to support, as part of the government’s austerity programme.

They also point to the growing evidence of the “shoddy nature” of the PIP assessments, carried out by the government’s contractors, Capita and Atos, which they say are “making a killing” from the contracts.

The national day of action featured protests at nearly 20 locations across the country, mostly at Atos and Capita assessment centres, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Sheffield, Norwich, and Brighton (where protesters included retired Paralympian Kristina Veasey).

There was also support from the cast of Graeae’s musical Reasons to be Cheerful, who tweeted: “@r2bcheerful cast team are in solidarity with #PIPFightback demos around UK today. ‘No’ to PIP delays, cuts & errors.”

The day of action was organised by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and two other user-led, grassroots organisations, WinVisible and the Mental Health Resistance Network.


They then marched to the headquarters of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Westminster, before they “faced down the world’s media” on College Green, opposite parliament, as journalists gathered to cover the last day in office of prime minister David Cameron and the first day of his successor, Theresa May.

Disabled activists shouted out the names of disabled people who they believe died as a direct result of the government’s social security cuts and reforms.

Paula Peters, from DPAC, said she wanted Atos and Capita to lose their assessment contracts, with the process brought back in-house, and for PIP to be scrapped and replaced with the old disability living allowance (DLA).

She said: “The assessments are abusive and humiliating, so we want them to stop.”

Peters made it clear that disabled people’s anti-cuts protests would continue under the new prime minister.

She said: “She is just as guilty as David Cameron of the horrendous human rights abuses disabled people have suffered these past six years.

“We won’t stop resisting this government, no matter who the prime minister is.”

In central Birmingham, protesters – including two former chairs of the British Council of Disabled People (BCODP) – were outside the PIP assessment centre used by Capita.

Sandra Daniels, from DPAC West Midlands, who organised the protest, said she believed the government wanted to cut the number of people receiving DLA by 25 per cent, and that mental health survivors and people with learning difficulties were among those being subjected to “sham assessments and reassessments”, a process she said was “ongoing” and “relentless”.

She said: “I want disabled people to have the benefits and support to be able to be members of the community.

“They should be given the resources they need to uphold their human rights and inclusion in society.

“They are pushing us back to the margins of society once again. Disabled people are losing their independence and will no longer have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Anne Pridmore, a former BCODP chair, said she believed the cuts to working-age DLA were “just the start” of a “trickle, trickle” process of cuts to DLA spending, and that the government would eventually begin cutting the higher rate mobility element of DLA from disabled people over the age of 65.

She said the programme of PIP cuts “does not make sense. The government wants to get people in work, but if they take their [Motability] cars off them they are not going to be able to go to work.”

Bob Williams-Findlay, another former BCODP chair, said: “PIP has had a devastating effect on people’s lives and not only those who have lost it, but people here today who are living in fear of being reassessed.

“They know the criteria is so tough that unless you are immobile you are not going to get PIP.”

He said PIP had proved to be not only a deliberate cut to spending on disability benefits but also an attempt to “redefine who is and who is not a disabled person”, and he called for it to be replaced with an improved version of DLA.

He said: “To me, PIP is the epitome of body fascism because it focuses on the body and it doesn’t focus on the social environment and barriers.”

He said he believed PIP contravenes the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which focuses on removing these barriers.

Williams-Findlay said: “Looking at the costs of living as a disabled person, what is it that increases our costs? It’s the barriers.”He said he had not yet been reassessed for PIP himself, but added: “I live in fear that I will get rejected, because it takes no account of reality. Can you walk 20 metres? Can you pick up a bag of sugar?”

Andrew Comer, a former committee member of Birmingham People First, before it was forced to close this year after losing its funding, said he was waiting to hear the results of his own PIP assessment.

He said: “I am concerned about everything from the [closure of the] Independent Living Fund to PIP.

“People with all kinds of disabilities are not being listened to by the government.”

Another disabled activist, known as “Angry Fish”, who has yet to be reassessed for PIP, said the austerity programme was “doing most damage, and sometimes fatal damage, to disabled people”, including the unnecessary “stress, anxiety and fear” caused by the reassessment process.

He said: “People are having their lives totally ruined by the PIP process and austerity.”

He pointed to the hundreds of people every week who were losing their Motability vehicles after being reassessed for PIP, which could cause many of them to lose their jobs, which could then cause their personal assistants to lose their jobs.

And he called for a new programme to replace PIP, which would provide a “holistic perspective of people’s capacity to engage in society”. Mark Lynes, another Birmingham protester, said he believed PIP was introduced to “take away support from society” and was an attack on the social security system.

He said: “A lot of people have lost their total independence. They are struggling and have lost their Motability cars.”

Meanwhile, the former senior DWP civil servant Paul Gray has issued a call for evidence as part of his second review of PIP on behalf of the government. The first review took place in 2014.

In announcing the call for evidence, work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb also announced that his department had launched its own evaluation of PIP, with initial findings to be published by early next year.

Pensions minister Baroness Altmann said the audit would ensure that the advice provided by Capita and Atos was “of suitable quality, is fully explained and is justified”.

Gray, who chairs the social security advisory committee, said the audit followed his recommendation in 2014 that DWP should commission a “rigorous quantitative and qualitative evaluation strategy” to examine the experience of PIP claimants.

He said the audit would run alongside his own review and “may help to inform my final conclusions”.

Gray said that a “major objective” of his second review would be to assess how “further evidence” was used to reach PIP entitlement decisions which “properly reflect claimant needs and the day-to-day functional impacts of their condition”.

This appears to mirror serious, long-standing concerns over DWP’s failure to ensure that the necessary further medical evidence is collected for claimants of employment and support allowance, the out-of-work disability benefit, particularly for those with mental health conditions.

No confidence that SCIE report will see Care Act turnaround in Norfolk

Courtesy John Pring

July 2016

A report commissioned following concerns raised by disabled people that their local authority was breaching its duties under the Care Act will do little to help because it fails to address drastic cuts to social care funding, say campaigners.

Norfolk County Council (NCC) had asked the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) to review its implementation of the 2014 Care Act after the disabled people’s organisation Equal Lives accused it of “reckless behaviour” that had left disabled people prisoners in their own homes.

Equal Lives had accused the Conservative-majority council of a “systemic failure” to meet its legal duties under the act.

But although the report by SCIE – an improvement support agency that was originally set up by the Labour government but later became a charity – makes 22 recommendations for improvements at the council, it says nothing about the need for greater funding for social care in Norfolk.

SCIE said that the issue of funding and resources was “not specifically in scope” for the review, although the impact of funding cuts on the council’s practice “was raised by participants in the course of the review”.

Service-users in Norfolk are now considering taking legal action against the council over the cuts to their support, while their experiences will be fed into an inquiry into adult social care by the communities and local government select committee.

Their cases will also feed into a report being prepared by Equal Lives and other members of the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance for its “shadow report” on how the UK government is implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

SCIE’s conclusions came as a health select committee report on the impact of last year’s spending review on health and social care funding in England concluded that “increasing numbers of people with genuine social care needs are no longer receiving the care they need because of a lack of funding”.

The committee’s Conservative chair, Dr Sarah Wollaston, said that this “not only causes considerable distress to these individuals and their families but results in additional costs to the NHS”. 

The committee heard that adult social care budgets had fallen by £4.6 billion (31 per cent) between 2010-11 and 2015-16, while by June 2015, 400,000 fewer disabled and older people were receiving social care than in 2009-10, with the size of care packages also being cut.

The SCIE report claims there is a “high level of awareness that cuts have to be made and budgets have to be reduced”, and that it has been “very difficult to manage expectations”.

It adds: “Service users and carers, aware of NCC’s need to make financial savings, feel generally anxious about reviews and assessments, as a reduction to Personal Budgets could have a significant impact on their quality of life.”

The report says the council has a “genuine intention to improve outcomes for local people”, but says there are “several areas for NCC to focus on to deliver and embed the Care Act’s requirements in ways which use resources to best effect” and “gain the full confidence” of service-users, staff and other groups and individuals.

But Mark Harrison, chief executive of Equal Lives, said: “Whilst welcoming the review I am not confident it will change very much given there are no recommendations around resources, even though the report does highlight cuts and management culture as contributing factors to poor performance. 

“The disabled people at the launch of the report saw it as ‘too high level’. 

“Their experience is having their personal budgets cut and a rising fear of social workers and reviews, as they are often a negative experience.

“I don’t believe things can be turned round in Norfolk without a significant rise in funding.”

Earlier this year, Equal Lives published six cases studies of disabled people whose wellbeing had suffered as a result of council cuts, and which it said demonstrated how the council had breached its duties under the Care Act.

Harrison said: “Norfolk has seen the adult social care budget cut by 40 per cent since 2010, with rising demand for services. 

“We are facing a further £20 million cuts over the next two years. “This is unsustainable and I call on Conservative politicians at national and local levels to take this seriously and address this crisis.”

Cllr Bill Borrett, the Conservative chair of the council’s adult social care committee, told Disability News Service that the funding pressures faced by NCC were “a national problem” and “not a problem unique to Norfolk”, and that his council, just like any other, would like more funding for social care from central government.

But he said social care had to “compete for its resources” with other areas, such as the NHS, education, and paying for the Trident nuclear deterrent, and that it was “a decision for society to make about whether they think there is enough of the national wealth being spent in this area or not”.

He said SCIE had not been asked to look at whether disabled people were receiving large enough care packages but at “the effectiveness of what was done and how the council was using its resources to get the best results”.

He said: “What we have to justify as an organisation is that we are using the scarce resources available to us to get absolutely the best results we can from those resources.

“If the council felt that absolutely everything it was doing was perfect then we wouldn’t have commissioned this report.

“We need to look at delivering services in a different way and that means that services are different.”

Asked whether disabled people in Norfolk were currently enjoying choice, control and a right to independent living, he said: “What we’ve got to be sure of is that these different services are going to be better at meeting their needs than the way the services were constructed in the past, and I don’t know the answer to that.”

And asked what message he would give to disabled people facing cuts to their support in Norfolk, he said: “The message I would give to them is we are striving to give them the best service that we can, given the budgets that are available to us, and that nothing is more important than that goal.”

DPAC joins ILF court case trio in call for Labour to back Corbyn

July 2016

Three disabled activists who took the government to court in an unsuccessful bid to stop the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) have called on Labour MPs to halt their attempts to topple their party leader.

Anne Pridmore, Gabriel Pepper and Stuart Bracking have pointed out that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had been “unstinting” in his support for ILF-users throughout the campaign to prevent the fund’s closure.

The trio were joined by Paul Taylforth, the father of a fourth former ILF-user who was involved in the court cases, in raising concerns about developments within the party.

They sent an email outlining their concerns to Corbyn, deputy party leader Tom Watson, the shadow chancellor John McDonnell, the present and previous shadow ministers for disabled people, Debbie Abrahams and Kate Green, and Neil Coyle, a Labour MP and a former director of Disability Rights UK.

They pointed out that Corbyn issued a statement on the day ILF closed in June last year pledging to campaign for it to be reinstated.

Their court bids to overturn the government’s decision to close the fund were finally defeated in December 2014, prompting Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, to suggest that the move signalled “the end of the right to independent living for disabled people in the UK”.

They said in this week’s statement: “The democratic election of Jeremy Corbyn last September instilled hope among many disabled people and their families that the Labour party had turned a corner, and would campaign hard to stop further austerity and cuts to public services and benefits.

“A number of judicial reviews brought in recent years reflect the impact public service cuts are having on the lives of disabled people and their families.

“While legal challenges are sometimes successful, they cannot achieve the impact and change an effective political campaign can.

“Rather than sow further division, we would urge Labour MPs to remember who austerity and public sector cuts are hitting the hardest, and the lives now being destroyed by them.”

They said there was a “desperate need for unity” among working-class people and said the Labour party and its MPs needed to “consider their responsibility and duty of care towards those who will continue to face the consequences if we fail to end austerity now”.

They said this would only be possible if the party united behind Corbyn’s leadership and worked with trade unions and disability campaigners to “build a political movement to achieve this”.

This week, Corbyn lost a vote of confidence among his own MPs by 172 votes to 40, and now faces leadership challenge from former minister Angela Eagle.

Yesterday (Wednesday), the former ILF-users were joined in their call by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), which issued its own appeal to Labour members to back Corbyn.

In a statement on its website, it praised the “unstinting support” that Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell had given to both DPAC and disabled people.

It said: “Both have spoken out and voted against every horror the Tories have imposed on disabled people.”

McDonnell has sent a message to DPAC, urging all of its members and supporters “to support Jeremy if there is a leadership election”, and calling on non-members to join the party so they can vote for him.

Only last month, research by Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People suggested that the government’s failure to ring-fence the funding it was handing to local authorities following the ILF closure was leading to a “postcode lottery” of support for former ILF-recipients.

ILF was funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and by last year it was helping nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.

But ministers decided it should be scrapped, promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred to councils in England and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland, to cover the period from its closure last summer to April 2016.


Disability employment gap: Experts demolish government excuses for WRAG cut

courtesy John Pring July

A trio of experts have destroyed government claims that cutting out-of-work benefits for disabled people will help them find work.

They were giving evidence to the Commons work and pensions select committee, as part of its inquiry into the government’s pledge to halve the disability employment gap (the difference between the employment rates of disabled and non-disabled people).

Neil Coyle, a Labour MP and a former director of Disability Rights UK, had asked the panel of experts if they agreed with the government that cutting nearly £30-a-week from new claimants placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG) of employment and support allowance (ESA) would help cut the employment gap.

David Finch, a senior economic analyst with the Resolution Foundation think-tank, who previously spent eight years at the Department for Work and Pensions, said: “We don’t think it’s going to make any particular difference to people’s incentive to look for work or not.

“In face, we think there’s evidence to suggest that, with disabled people, the cost of work search or work preparation is actually more expensive… so in fact it could have the opposite effect and people will spend more time worrying about not having enough income and less time doing the types of activity they are trying to promote them to do.”

Ben Baumberg Geiger, a senior lecturer in sociology and social policy at the University of Kent and co-author of an influential report that called for the “toxic” work capability assessment to be scrapped, said the parliamentary debates on the ESA cut – due to be introduced next April – had suggested that people in the WRAG were “not that severely disabled”, when in fact there were many people who did have significant long-term impairments and would “suffer financially considerably from the cut.

He said he thought the cut would put an “immense strain” on the work capability assessment – which tests eligibility for ESA – which did not measure how far people were from the labour market but was “just a very crude assessment”.

He said the cut would incentivise claimants to try to get into the support group, which if they were successful would leave them with “very little engagement in getting back to work”, and so would be “definitely harmful” to government efforts to halve the employment gap.

A third expert, George Selvanera, director of strategy and external affairs at the Business Disability Forum, said he had yet to see any evidence that cutting disabled people’s income would “somehow increase their motivation and their skills to find work”.

He said: “What we do know is that it is not the fault of disabled people that the labour market fails disabled people.

“Somehow we are holding disabled people responsible for broader failures in the labour market, which just doesn’t seem fair.”

He added: “We know that [in]2013-14 that 30 per cent of disabled people lived in absolute poverty in this country, so making them poorer, I’m not sure how that incentivises people to work.”

Meanwhile, the latest figures – according to a briefing note published by the House of Commons library – show that the disability employment gap has actually risen since the 2015 election.

In the first quarter of 2015, the gap was 32.7 percentage points, which rose to 34.5 percentage points by the third quarter of last year, before falling to 33.1 percentage points in the first quarter of 2016.

This is because the level and rate of employment for both disabled and non-disabled people have been increasing since 2013.

In the first quarter of 2016, there were 3.33 million disabled people in jobs, an increase of 365,000 compared to the same period in 2014 (a rise of 12 per cent).

Relief after doctors maintain strong opposition to assisted suicide

courtesy John Pring  5th July

Disabled activists have welcomed the decision of doctors to vote strongly against relaxing their union’s position on physician-assisted suicide.

The British Medical Association (BMA) voted by 63 per cent to 37 per cent this week at its annual representative meeting (ARM) in Belfast to maintain its current position of being opposed to physician-assisted suicide.

Some doctors had wanted the BMA to move to a neutral stance on the issue.

Last September, the latest parliamentary attempt to weaken the law, through a private members’ bill put forward by Labour MP Rob Marris, was defeated by 330 votes to 118.

But there were concerns after his bill was thrown out that pro-assisted suicide campaigners were already plotting their next move to try to force through legalisation, either through the courts or parliament.

A move to a neutral position by the BMA would have given euthanasia supporters a significant boost in their continuing quest to change the law.

Minutes before the debate, delegates had decided by a margin of only three votes to allow the meeting to debate the issue of whether the BMA “should adopt a neutral stance on assisted dying”.  

Dr Andrew Mowat told delegates that BMA had debated the issue in seven of the last 10 ARMs.

He pointed out that MPs voted by nearly three to one against changing the law to legalise assisted suicide last year, while the Scottish parliament had thrown out a similar bill months earlier.

He said: “The public expect their doctors to lead on ethical issues. The thought of doctors killing patients creates public mistrust of us.”

He said that evidence from other countries showed that when doctors’ organisations moved to a position of neutrality it was soon followed by legalisation of assisted suicide.

Baroness Finlay, a crossbench peer and consultant in palliative medicine, and a leading opponent of legalisation, said: “With our hard-pressed healthcare system, doctors have enough to juggle without being saddled with assessing whose life is worth working hard to improve, and who should be given lethal drugs.”

But Professor Clare Gerada, former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners and a leading supporter of legalisation, said it was the BMA’s responsibility to debate the issue “year in, year out”.

The disabled people’s campaign network Not Dead Yet UK (NDY UK), which opposes assisted suicide, welcomed the BMA vote, tweeting: “Thankyou to @BMA for continuing to oppose #assistedsuicide & listening to disabled people. Our lives are worth living,” and, “Disabled people will sleep safer tonight knowing @BMA doctors support us.”

Baroness [Jane] Campbell, NDY UK’s founder, added on Twitter: “Great news! Not Dead UK thanks you from the bottom of our heart.”

Dr Ian Wilson, chair of the BMA’s representative body, said: “Doctors appreciate the strongly-held views both across society and their profession on both sides of this complex and sensitive issue.

“The issue of assisted dying has been regularly debated by the BMA at its annual policy-forming conference, with delegates voting this year to remain opposed to assisted dying.

“By engaging with doctors and members of the public in an 18-month long project, we have compiled a comprehensive body of qualitative research to look at the wider context of the issue and enable members to have informed discussions at this year’s conference.

“This work will still continue and we will also be holding a special open discussion this week during which doctors will be able to share their views on some of the more complex and practical issues doctors would face if assisted dying were permitted in the UK.”

ENIL Stands by Disabled People in UK after Regrettable Brexit

June 24, 2016 Posted in European Union, News

ENIL Press Release, 24 June 2016

“Today, we come to the sobering realisation that our connection with European supporters, policies that reflect the aspirations of the Independent Living Movement and decision makers that would collaborate with us is severely damaged – possibly beyond repair. Disabled people, in the UK, will become further marginalised as the State begins to dismantle social justice frameworks and destroy the support systems that – currently – do not meet the needs of those who require them. The most startling factor to consider is that the majority of those who voted unwittingly accepted this.” Miro Griffiths, UK, Independent Living activist and researcher.

The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) has woken up to today’s news of UK’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) with emotions of sadness, disbelief and dejection. We share these emotions with almost half of the UK population, the majority of whom are from the younger generations and larger cities, from Scotland and Northern Ireland, and most certainly from the UK Independent Living and disability rights movement.

It is clear that the distance between the Brussels policy making and everyday concerns of EU citizens in the Member States is far too great, or at the minimum is perceived that way. We hope that the Brexit setback will initiate a constructive debate that leads us to a more social Europe, with a stronger, more positive impact on our human rights and living conditions. The European core values of non-discrimination, human rights and freedom of movement should benefit us all, including the British disabled people and their families.

We are deeply concerned about the prospect of disabled people in Britain being worse off and hit by further cuts. Although discrimination and inequality affect many disabled people throughout Europe, there are numerous EU initiatives that have had a positive impact on our lives and have created a stronger legal basis to protect our rights. Among those positive measures are the EU Employment Directive, the EU Bus Directive and Air Passengers Regulation, the Web Accessibility Directive and the European Accessibility Act, which is currently being negotiated. The benefit of EU’s ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for Britain’s disabled people also cannot be underestimated, nor can access to the European Structural and Investment Funds, which can be used to advance deinstitutionalization, employment, accessibility and inclusion.

“I have been employing my own personal assistants for 33 years and during this time I have employed PAs from 12 different EU countries. I would not have been able to have managed this if we were not part of the EU. If we leave, this opportunity will no longer be available to us and will restrict thousands of disabled people finding new PAs. Recruitment of PAs is already a big problem in this country, particularly in many rural areas.” John Evans, ENIL UK & advisory board.

ENIL respects the democratic right of the British people to decide on their EU membership. However, we are adamant that a strong human rights agenda throughout Europe is better achieved together. ENIL will continue and intensify its collaboration with disabled people in the UK. We will not leave our British disabled brothers and sisters behind and will do everything in our power to support them in their fight.

PIP is a disaster for disabled people. At last the full horror is emerging

Frances Ryan

When does reform become dangerous? Over three years ago the Conservatives began to roll out personal independence payments (PIP) – in essence, the mandatory, mass re-testing of disabled and chronically ill people – and the answer is getting stark.

Personal independence payments are a punishment of the poor and ill.

A report released today by Muscular Dystrophy UK is the latest piece of evidence to expose an administrative catastrophe: appointments cancelled at the last minute, lost applications, year-long delays. Two in five respondents report being sent to an assessment centre that wasn’t accessible for disabled people. That’s in order to be tested for a disability benefit.

Make it inside the building and the picture is as dire: widespread reports of assessors – employed by private firms hired by the Department for Work and Pensions – who showed no respect for disabled people, while some didn’t even understand the condition they were testing (one man, with muscular dystrophy, pointed out that the word “progressive” means “muscles don’t come back”).

The result of this chaos is anything from rent arrears and credit card debt to mental scars. One woman, with a muscle wasting disease, said that she developed panic attacks after her assessment. She is now under care of a mental health team and doesn’t leave her house.

That the government deliberately built PIP with tightened criteria – and is sitting by as the system descends into disarray – becomes grimmer still when you consider that this is being done to a benefit tied to other essential disability services.

Without PIP a disabled person can’t access anything from carer’s allowance to severe disability premium. If that isn’t enough, anyone who is rejected – or bumped down to the standard rate – is also barred from the Motability scheme for an accessible car or powered wheelchair.

Sarah, a nurse with progressive muscle wasting and weakness, is seven months’ pregnant – and has been forced to hand back her Motability car. The 29-year-old had been receiving the higher rate of disability living allowance (the predecessor to PIP), but after being reassessed she was knocked down to the standard rate – despite her condition deteriorating.

Sarah can’t take her fatigue medicine without affecting her pregnancy, and her disability means she is at risk of falling when she walks, and permanent damage. “That vehicle was a lifeline to me,” she says. “I’ve lost my independence.”

Last week Sarah was due at a tribunal to appeal against the decision, but found it cancelled with just two days’ notice – and no explanation. She’s been in hospital twice this weekend.

The government is skewing benefits appeals against disabled people

Will this be making many headlines? It took the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith and a budget hole of billions to get the mainstream media to shine a light on the disaster of PIP – or many politicians to find a conscience. One cut to the benefit is stopped. A new secretary of state is hired. And the news cycle moves on. The disabled can’t. For many, things are only getting worse.

Between 400 and 500 adapted cars, powered wheelchairs, and scooters are being taken away from disabled people every week. Independence gone – with a maximum of seven weeks to hand your lifeline back. As an insight into the logic, let alone empathy, in this system, that’s notably less time than it takes to go to appeal or even to get the results of mandatory reconsideration – meaning the DWP’s ruling can be overturned, but the disabled person’s car or wheelchair will already have been taken. (At the last count, 60% of appeals against PIP were successful).

Darran uses a wheelchair – and has a degenerative muscle wasting disease – but last year was downgraded on PIP and lost his car. In his own words, it left him “housebound and isolated”, and he scraped together the deposit for another accessible vehicle. The DWP later informed Darran that its decision had been “mistaken”, and his old car would be returned. “My £2,000 deposit is non-refundable,” he says. “I’ve lost that money.”

This is starting to look like a game with people’s lives. Take away benefits and the sick become destitute. Remove a car or wheelchair and disabled people become housebound. It’s happening right now – and what’s worse, most of the public won’t even know it.

Concerns after Learning Disability England Courtesy J Pring


A group launched last year to represent people with learning difficulties across England has been scrapped and replaced by a non-user-led organisation that will be partly controlled by service-providers.

People First England (PFE) was set up last year by Gary Bourlet, who founded Britain’s first People First self-advocacy organisation in London in 1984, and fellow disabled activist Kaliya Franklin.

They joined forces in a bid to set up the first national user-led organisation for people with learning difficulties to cover just England, which they hoped would develop into an umbrella organisation for self-advocacy groups across the country.

In the first few weeks of the project they raised nearly £30,000, but it later struggled to raise further funds and they have now been forced into a merger that will leave people with learning difficulties in a minority on the new organisation’s board.

At the time of its launch, concerns were raised by other self-advocacy campaigners that PFE’s plans to work closely with families, carers and groups not led by disabled people could eventually see it become a non-user-led organisation that would have more in common with service-provider charities like Mencap.

A year on, some disabled activists fear that those concerns have been born out.

PFE has now merged with the charity the Housing and Support Alliance – which had been supporting PFE – to create Learning Disability England (LDE), which was launched at the House of Lords this week.

Instead of LDE being run by disabled people, power will instead be shared between “people with learning disabilities, families and friends, and organisations”, with a nine-strong board having three family representatives, three people from disability organisations and three self-advocates.

LDE is likely to replace campaigning work previously done by the Learning Disability Alliance – which itself was made up of service-providers, the National Forum of People with Learning Disabilities and the National Valuing Families Forum – and the Learning Disability Coalition, which had a similar make-up to the alliance.

But concerns have been raised that LDE’s funders include a string of organisations that earn money by providing services to people with learning difficulties, including Care Management Group, Brandon Trust, Advance Housing and Support, United Response and MacIntyre.

Andrew Lee, director of policy and campaigns at People First Self-Advocacy, who raised concerns last year about PFE, said he was “very worried” about the new organisation and “not surprised that my concerns have actually become a reality”.

He said he feared that LDE would lead to the voices of people with learning difficulties being “sidelined”, while he was also concerned about the risk of “tokenism”.

He said: “Unless people with learning difficulties are in complete control of an organisation, then their voices will always be pushed aside.

“I am very worried that the voices of people with learning difficulties are being trampled on in such a way.

“Obviously the views of family members, although they are important, are not the actual views of people with learning difficulties.

“They will always be different because people with learning difficulties will be saying, ‘I want choice and control, I want to live on my own, I want to get married, I want to have children and have aspiration,’ but they are being told, ‘you can’t,’ or ‘you can, with conditions’.”

He said the creation of LDE highlighted the need for genuine, properly-funded self-advocacy organisations.

Lee said he heard only last week that another local People First organisation had lost its funding, which he said came “at the very time when we need a strong voice”.

LDE said that its immediate priorities would be to develop projects to support people with learning difficulties to speak to the media, and to be more involved in the political process, something PFE had focused on.

It will also bring together “experts in various fields to help make policy stronger and effective”, work with a “network of academics to strengthen the effect of research”, set up a “fighting fund” to “help people challenge prejudice and discrimination”, and provide members with advice and support.

Bourlet (pictured) told Disability News Service that there had not been enough funding to continue with PFE.

Asked about replacing a user-led organisation with one that was partly controlled by the big service-provider organisations, which make money by providing services to people with learning difficulties, he said: “We are stuck in a hard place and people have to understand that money does not grow on trees.

“They put the biggest amount of money in, but it doesn’t mean they will have the majority voting.”

He said that the new organisation was about “all coming together” and “strength in numbers”.

He said: “There are lots of good self-advocacy organisations and others saying the right things but it is easy to ignore because they are all doing it individually.

Former ILF user takes Council to court over care package cuts

17 June 2016

A severely disabled man who needs 24-hour care has been given permission to bring a legal challenge Oxfordshire County Council’s decision to reduce his care package in the High Court.

The care package was previously joint funded by the Council and the Independent Living Fund (ILF) but when the ILF was closed by the government in June 2015 the responsibility and funding was transferred to the local authorities, in this case Oxfordshire County Council.

Luke Davey, 39, is quadriplegic and has cerebral palsy, disabilities caused due to a virus he contracted as a child, which means he has significant needs for care and support which are the responsibility of Oxfordshire County Council under the Care Act 2014.

Luke lives in his own adapted home and is supported by a team of carers to live independently.

Despite an assessment in April 2015 stating he needs 24-hours care a day and a stable care package for over 20 years the council took steps to reduce Luke’s funding over the past 12 months down to 17.5 hours which his family, and an independent report said would have a negative effect on his wellbeing.

DR UK’s legal partners, Irwin Mitchell Solicitors, challenged the decision in the High Court stating that the Council is in breach of the Care Act in not making sufficient payments to meet Luke’s care needs.

The High Court has granted permission for Mr Davey to bring a Judicial Review of the reductions to Luke’s care plan.

Irwin Mitchell has also secured an interim court order for Luke at the recent court hearing meaning that the Council needs to continue paying for the full cost of his current care package until the final hearing which is expected to take place later this year.

At first the council continued to fund the care package but then later decided to reduce the care that would be funded to only 17.5 hours of care per day, leaving Luke by himself for 6 hours during the day.

However, an independent occupational therapist was critical of the decisions to reduce his funding and said it would give rise to significant risks to Luke’s wellbeing and independence.

A further argument in the case is that a reduction in the rates of pay for skilled carers and assistants would be unreasonable and unlawful.

A judicial review hearing will be heard in the High Court later this year.

High Court allows first legal challenge over Care Act wellbeing principle

by Andy Mcnicoll on June 15, 2016 in Adults, Care Act 2014

Luke Davey, 39, claims Oxfordshire council has breached statutory duties with cuts to his care package

A disabled man has been given permission by the High Court to bring a legal challenge against a local authority’s decision to reduce his care package, in the first case to be linked to an alleged failure to meet the Care Act’s wellbeing principle.


Luke Davey, 39, is quadriplegic and has cerebral palsy. He was assessed as needing 24-hour care in 2015 and had a stable care package in place for 20 years. Over the past year Oxfordshire council took steps to cut the funding available to him. He says this would leave him able to afford 17.5 hours of support and left alone for six hours a day.


Davey is bringing a judicial review of the council’s decision on the basis it breached several statutory duties under the Care Act, including the duty to “promote an individual’s wellbeing” set out in section 1 of the Act and the duty to meet meeting an individual’s unmet eligible needs set out in section 18 of the legislation.


He will point to evidence from an independent occupational therapist who said the move to cut his care package posed significant risks to his wellbeing and independence.


Davey’s case will be heard in the High Court later this year and is the first legal challenge dealing with the Care Act’s wellbeing principle and care package provision duties. The only other Care Act-related challenge heard by the courts to date concerned advocacy provision.


Ahead of the hearing, the law firm Irwin Mitchell, which is representing Davey, has secured an interim court order meaning that the council must continue paying the full cost of his current package until the case is finished.


Davey’s care package had been joint funded by the council and the Independent Living Fund (ILF) up until the ILF closed in June 2015. At first the council continued to fund the full care package but then decided to reduce the funding available.


Rebecca Chapman a solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said: “We will argue that the council has duties under the Care Act 2014 and has not taken into account the reasons why the reduced payments will have such a significant detrimental impact on Luke’s health and wellbeing.


“We are pleased that the court has granted the interim court order meaning his care needs will continue to be met. We now look forward to presenting Luke’s case at the Judicial Review later this year.”


Jasmine Davey, Luke’s mother, said: “I am 75 years old and have cancer. I cannot provide all the care that Luke needs. Luke is unable to make himself a drink or put himself to the toilet.


“The decision of the High Court came as a great relief to Luke and the family because it means Luke will be kept safe. It is just a shame that we had to take this matter to court and the council did not listen to our concerns and try to accommodate them which could have prevented the legal action.”


An Oxfordshire council spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment at this stage pending consideration of this case by the Court. In the meantime we continue to work with Mr Davey and his family.”

Brexit could undermine the rights of disabled people

Richard Howitt

The EU referendum campaign so far has been more about politicians than about people. But what about the impact of leaving the EU for Britain’s 10 million people with disabilities?

I am an MEP for the East of England, and have been since 1994. But before going into politics I was a disability rights activity – and, as chair of the European parliament all-party disability rights group, I still am.

I was first inspired to stand for the European parliament by a project where British and Dutch deaf people came together in a room for the first time. At first, differences in sign language meant they couldn’t communicate. But within 15 minutes they had spontaneously found a way of doing so – very effectively.

Volunteering in Greece showed me how vital social work is in this refugee crisis 

It taught me about pulling barriers down, and how people benefit by doing so. People with disabilities will always campaign to pull down barriers, not erect new ones. In all the talk of “free movement” in Europe, what about the right of a British wheelchair user to take a holiday or visit abroad?

Discrimination doesn’t stop at borders. Europe’s non-discrimination law for people with disabilities is one of a string of EU actions that have brought tangible benefits for those who live with a disability in Britain.

Europe now has access requirements for lifts in public buildings, the web and all major transport modes. A European-wide general accessibility act that could further transform the lives of millions of people has also been proposed. Last year, 87,000 British disabled people were helped towards employment by European social funding. And a legal exemption to allow public authorities to directly contract to social enterprises has helped disabled people create jobs for themselves. A group of blind people producing and selling animal bedding in Norwich and people with Asperger’s running a business repairing and recycling computers are two examples from my constituency.

Treatments have been developed through European research for diseases so rare that no one country could have done it alone. International copyright rules have been established that allow blind people to benefit from talking books and newspapers.

If these and other disability rights were torn up through Britain exiting the EU, could British disabled people really rely on the government to reinstate each and every one of them? Being part of Europe is a safeguard against British governments of all political colours removing disability rights.

The EU made sure non-discrimination employment rights were extended to small business, overcame resistance to recognising sign language as an official language, and continues to protect the independence of the oft-berated Equalities and Human Rights Commission.

EU leave campaigners who rail against the powers of the European Court deliberately confuse the EU’s Court of Justice with the completely separate European Court of Human Rights. Nevertheless, those of us who campaign for Britain to remain in Europe should proudly attest why it is good for the state to be made accountable for respecting the human rights of disabled people (pdf).

Protection against cruel and degrading treatment is an important defence of decent public services in the current climate of austerity – as one disabled woman proved when she sued her local authority for cutting her care package.

A final myth plied by leave proponents is that Britain is somehow being held back from a bigger, better alternative outside Europe.

Last month I helped host a visit to Belgium by organisations of disabled people from Asia, Africa and Latin America. For them, life with a disability was better in the EU and they had come to Brussels to learn from our ways of working.

Take the achievement of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. British diplomacy within the EU was instrumental in winning agreement in the UN – the first human rights convention ever signed by the EU itself.

Britain within the EU is more influential and the world is better off because of it. So let’s remember the great international spirit which enabled Britain to host the Paralympics, and to share a message of disability achievement and equality with other countries.

That is the spirit as a British politician I take to my own work for disabled people in Europe every day. And it is the spirit we should bring in to the EU referendum campaign: British disabled people are stronger in Europe.

This article is an edited version of a speech given to national disability charity the Papworth Trust.

Join the Social Care Network to read more pieces like this. Follow on Twitter (@GdnSocialCare) and like us on Facebook to keep up with the latest social care news and views.

Changes to the Personal Independence Payment


The purposed changes to the Personal Independence Payment will, using DWP's own figures, disable further 640, 000 people by withdrawing money to cover extra cost arising from impairment itself or disabling barriers to independent living. The argument being used by the DWP is based upon a complete rejection of the methodology within the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People.

This is a twisted ideological attack based upon UNUM's approach to 'disability'. If the starting point - gaze - is constructed through the medicalization of the impaired body, then one determines who has a 'disabled body' incapable of leading 'normal lives' without "specialist" (medically-framed) support or equipment. This isn't about every day interaction which produces extra costs e.g. people who have to buy certain products - that is now denied as a 'disability related issue' because it is deemed a 'social choice' not "special equipment'. The fact those with mobiility related impairments like myself need to buy up to 3 pairs of shoes a year = £70-£80 per annum is discounted because "they are normal shoes that normal people wear" (sic). This is body fascism - it is imposing disability on top of our impairments through the denial of how disability is socially created.

This attack adds to the erroding of disabled people's right to independent living and it increases our social oppression. Let us be clear: these changes will lead to the increased policing of disabled people's lives - dictating what ''disabled lifestyles'' (sic) ought to look like - making thousands 'disappear' behind close doors. It will financially cripple further thousands who are near or on the poverty line. The name of this benefit - Personal Independence Payment - is a bloody sick joke. It is becoming a weapon to murder our people slowly in plain sight. The 'consultation' was worthy of a Stalinist show trial - a means to cover their 'legal' due process - but nothing more. I hear that the Labour Party has issued a statement on these changes in the last two hours, but I've not seen it yet. I know I speak for thousands of disabled people when I say WE can't take much more of this barbaric and dehumanising treatment.

George Osborne to use £150 a week cut in disability benefits to 'fund middle-class tax giveaway’


'Removing support for people who need help to use the toilet or dress is an attack on dignity’

George Osborne is reportedly poised to use a reduction of £150 a week in benefit payments to disabled people in order to fund a middle-class tax giveaway at next week’s Budget.

The decision by Ministers to remove the PIP – Personal Independence Payment – benefits from more than 600,000 disabled people over the next five years, saving around £1 billion a year, could give the Chancellor leeway to bring down taxation for the middle-class.

According to the Daily Telegraph Mr Osborne wants to “accelerate progress” towards the Conservative manifesto pledge of raising the threshold to £50,000 at which people start paying 40p tax – a policy that could see thousands of high-earners pulled out of the higher rate of income tax. 

Owen Smith, the shadow work and pensions secretary, posted on his Twitter account: “Already wicked to take another £1.2 billion from disabled, but truly obscene if switched for tax cuts at the Budget.”

Government plans to cut adapted equipment support for disabled

"The introduction of Personal Independence Payment to replace the outdated Disability Living Allowance for working age claimants has been a hugely positive reform,” said Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, as he annouced the shake-up of the benefits.

He added: “But it is clear that the assessment criteria for aids and appliances are not working as planned. Many people are eligible for a weekly award despite having minimal to no extra costs and judicial decisions have expanded the criteria for aids and appliances to include items we would expect people to have in their homes already.”

The changes could cut more than £1.2bn from the welfare bill by reducing “points” for mobility problems, which claimants need to add together to qualify for the living costs fund.

Charities, however, warned that cutting the payment, which enables disabled people to afford specially-adapted appliances and equipment, will have a “devastating” impact on the lives of many.

On Friday a coalition of 25 disability charities wrote to the Government warning against the plans that would strip some disabled people of a key payment meant to help them live more independent lives.

The Disability Benefits Consortium wrote to the minister for disabled people, Ms Tomlinson, to argue that proposed changes to PIP would have a “severe impact” on people’s security and make it harder for them to find employment. 

“This decision could have a devastating impact on the lives of people with MS. In the worst cases, they could lose up to £150 a week,” said Michelle Mitchell, chief executive of the MS Society.

"Already wicked to take another £1.2 billion from disabled, but truly obscene if switched for tax cuts at the Budget”

Owen Smith, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary

“PIP is an essential benefit which goes towards the extra cost of being disabled.

“The new plans will fail some of the most vulnerable people in society and we have serious concerns about the future health and welfare of those affected.”

Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “This change is another unwelcome blow to disabled people’s independence, and will impact on people’s ability to work, enjoy family life and take part in the communities they live in.”

Social worker: ‘I want service users’ complaint about my council to succeed’

My council's decisions are compromising our professional values and damaging service user outcomes, writes a social worker

March 8, 2016 in Adults, Personalisation, Workforce

By an adults social worker

Personal budgets are not delivering on the promise they were introduced with – flexibility, choice and control. Instead, we are being told by senior managers to restrict what this money is spent on. Our service users do not have the freedom to choose the care they want or need.

The general feeling among frontline social workers at Norfolk County Council is this is just another move towards the dismantling of statutory services. Service users are being given personal budgets and cut adrift. This is causing conflict between us and the people we support.

This conflict was highlighted in a recent complaint by user-led group, Equal Lives, on behalf of Norfolk’s service users. Equal Lives has reported the council to the Care Quality Commission for ‘disregarding’ its duties under the Care Act 2014. I think ‘disregarding’ is the wrong word, but we’re certainly not living up to the principles of this legislation.

People aren’t getting their needs met for no other reason than budgetary constraints.

Senior managers and councillors are not standing up for us and challenging government decisions. They are not making a stand against the attacks on our services. They are not being supportive of us as frontline workers. I can’t remember the last time we saw a senior manager in our office, asking if we are okay and listening to us.

Instead, we are told to find more cost-effective solutions, which are usually dressed up in fancy names. We have the ‘Reimagining Norfolk’ strategy, which is about bringing the private and voluntary sectors in and looking for more ‘creative’ ways of meeting need. They dress these projects up in policy decisions, but we know they are just providing a smokescreen for the cuts.

This is causing demoralisation. Social workers are frustrated. We are professionals who every morning go to work determined to do the best we can for our service users and arrive to find our hands are tied. We are overworked and our caseloads are too high.

‘Our values are compromised’

Middle managers are as stressed out as the rest of us. I know many are working in their own time, you’ll often get an email from a manager on a Sunday. They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place – they have to push the managerial and political decisions further down the line to us. They are there for us as much as they can be, but they’re victims of the same situation.

When you do your social work training it is – quite rightly – bashed into you day after day that you must put the service user first, you must use skills like empathy and so on. But when it comes down to it, the managerial decisions that are imposed on us mean we can’t really employ those values. As the cuts bite, our values are compromised.

I would like to see Equal Lives’ complaint to the Care Quality Commission upheld and publicised. I’d like to see other councils face up to this as well. And I’d also like to see Norfolk’s senior managers and councillors showing some guts. Stand up for us, take our side, take the side of our service users, and challenge government decisions.

Council cuts proposals ‘fly in face of Care Act’ and risk legal challenge
Warning comes as user-group writes to health secretary urging him to order a CQC investigation into one council’s commissioning.

courtesy community care 2nd March 2016

  Research finds savings proposals risk breaches of statutory duties.

  Legal firm says it is aware of cases where eligible needs are not being met.

  User-group in Norfolk writes to Jeremy Hunt urging investigation into cuts.

  ADASS says councils working hard to protect services but warns funding made available by government is insufficient to meet demand.

Funding pressures mean councils are proposing cuts that “fly in the face of the Care Act” and are potentially unlawful, campaigners and legal experts have told Community Care.

The Care and Support Alliance (CSA), which represents more than 75 charities, warned cuts are reducing local authorities’ ability to meet their statutory duties. The group’s analysis of savings plans from 15 councils revealed proposals to cut staff, freeze recruitment and reduce assessments in 2016-17.

Law firm Irwin Mitchell said it was aware of cases where councils were failing to meet key Care Act duties. In a separate development, a user-group in Norfolk has written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt urging him to order a CQC investigation into the impact of cuts at the council. The group says the Care Act is being breached, but the council disputes this.

Sue Brown, vice chair of the CSA, pointed to savings proposals from Merton and Cumbria councils as two examples where legal duties could be at risk of being breached if plans went ahead.

Merton proposed reductions in staff which the council acknowledged would reduce its capacity to carry out assessments and reviews, undertake safeguarding activities and fulfil its Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) duties.

Cumbria council’s draft commissioning strategy proposed limiting assessments to people who were “likely to be eligible for services”.

The Care Act statutory guidance states that “local authorities must undertake an assessment for any adult with an appearance of need for care and support, regardless of whether or not the local authority thinks the individual has eligible needs or of their financial situation”. This reflects the duty to assess in section 9 of the act.

Cumbria told Community Care the proposal has since been reworded for a final commissioning strategy. The revised version said: “the aim is to ensure that we only assess people who appear that they may have a need of services.”

Care Act compliance?

Brown said the strain on councils meant they were now proposing changes that “fly completely in the face of the Care Act guidance”, adding: “It will affect the most vulnerable people and it is now very difficult to challenge this kind of thing. It’s hard to get legal aid but, if you also don’t understand what you should be getting, then you don’t challenge it.”

The CSA’s findings were submitted to an inquiry by the House of Commons health select committee into the impact of the comprehensive spending review on health and social care services.

The spending review cut central government funding for councils over the next five years but gave local authorities powers to raise money for social services by raising council tax by an additional 2% a year under a ‘social care precept’. The Local Government Association said there would be a shortfall of more than £2.9bn by 2020 despite the precept.

Social care leaders said councils were working hard to protect frontline care but acknowledged many services would be at “great risk” over the next two years due to financial pressures.

Areas of legal risk

Legal experts told Community Care councils had to “tread very carefully” when making social care cuts.

Caroline Barrett, a solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Their duties under the Care Act are not optional and they must comply with them. With cuts to the amount of provision on offer in many areas, local authorities run the risk of being challenged in the courts.”

Barrett said Irwin Mitchell was aware of cases where councils were not providing enough care support to meet the assessed eligible needs of disabled adults, a situation she warned was open to legal challenge given section 18 of the Care Act requires a local authority to meet a disabled adult’s eligible needs, so long as other conditions are met.

Another legal risk for councils lay in moves to close day centres or remove care placement options, she added. These decisions could breach a local authority’s duty, under section 5 of the Care Act, to promote the efficient and effective operation of a market in care services locally, she said.

User-group escalates complaint

The warning from the CSA came as a user-led group in Norfolk escalated its complaint about the impact of local authority cuts on their service users.

Equal Lives has written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt urging him to order the Care Quality Commission to investigate Norfolk Council’s adult social care department. The letter lists eight examples of budgetary decisions taken by the council that the group claims ‘contravene the Care Act and statutory guidance’. These include:

  Using reviews to make reductions to, or withdraw, social care support in a way that is unrelated to changes in needs or circumstances.

  Removing wellbeing payments from personal budgets and offering no alternatives.

  Raising the eligibility criteria of social care without consulting service users, which means some people with disabilities who were previously receiving services are no longer doing so.

The council “disputes any suggestion” of unlawful care but said it took the issues raised by Equal Lives “extremely seriously” and would review decision-making.

Responding to the CSA warning on spending cuts, Ray James, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said: “The Care and Support Alliance’s submission to the Health Select Committee reflects many of the key messages both in our own submission, and in the evidence already gathered by the Committee.

“We joined many colleagues in the Care Sector, including the CSA and NHS Confederation, to make a joint submission to the Spending Review, highlighting our shared concerns.

“Although the Treasury recognised the untenable position of social care budgets in the Spending Review, the funding made available was both too little, and too late.

“Councils are working hard to protect the quantity and quality of services for older and disabled people, but directors of adult social services are clear: many services are at great risk over the next two years due to increasing demand, the welcome introduction of the National Living Wage and the need to find further savings.”

Charities slam Tories for forcing through disability benefit cuts despite House of Lords defeat

MPs voted 306-279 to cut Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by £30 a week - ignoring peers and a Tory backbencher Charities slammed the Tories tonight for surging ahead with disability benefit cuts despite a major defeat in the House of Lords.

MPs have renewed plans to cut Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) by £30 a week - ignoring a desperate protest from a Tory backbencher who declared: "This is my warning shot to government”.

Heidi Allen's speech made an 11th-hour plea for her own party to find "the compassion to look after the little man”.

She added: "Today I will not support [the government]. Today I may abstain, but only for today.”

But her plea fell on deaf ears as a motion to challenge the House of Lords, which struck down the cuts last month, was passed by 306 votes to 279.

MPs also voted 310-277 against a Lords decision to reverse the scrapping of child poverty targets - which are being replaced by "shameful" measures that don't count parents' income. Both plans will return to the House of Lords next Monday amid fears the government could use financial rules to railroad them through with consent.

Dr Fran Woodard, policy director at cancer care charity Macmillan, said: "We are deeply disappointed that the government has not listened to the wide range of voices, including those from their own party, who have expressed major concerns.

"These cuts will have a damaging impact on people affected by cancer and other health conditions.

"Every penny counts when someone can’t work because of cancer, and taking away vital financial support can be a serious blow to people when they are at their most vulnerable.

"The Government must urgently reconsider their decision; if they press ahead, the planned changes could seriously hinder the full recovery of people with cancer.”  The move affects new or interrupted ESA claimants deemed fit for "work-related activity" (WRAG) from April 2017 - a group that has nearly half a million sick and disabled people.

Their benefit will be cut from £102.15 to £73.10 a week, equal with jobseekers' allowance. Those in the more severe "support group" will be unaffected.

Rob Holland of learning disability charity Mencap added: "The opposition across society to this cut is overwhelming.

"People with a learning disability will be disappointed to see the Government continue to try and force this cut through despite their promise to protect disability benefits.

"Just six per cent of people with a learning disability are in employment; however the Government are still yet to provide any robust evidence that cutting ESA WRAG will improve this number.

"In fact the evidence available shows it will push disabled people further away from the job market, and closer to poverty.”  And MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: "We are deeply disappointed and frustrated that the Government has ignored the Lords’ sensible intervention on this Bill.

"It is hard to see how this move can possibly help achieve the Government’s commitment to halve the disability employment gap.”

Labour accused Tory welfare minister Priti Patel of a "total lack of compassion" after she made an argumentative 29-minute speech defending the cuts.

And she sparked an outcry after she tried to claim Macmillan backed aspects of the government's policy - despite the cancer charity warning ESA cut victims could lose their homes.

She told MPs: "Macmillan have also said that many people who are working when they're diagnosed with cancer would prefer to work or return to their jobs during or after treatment.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith interrupted, saying: "Could she confirm that Macmillan are opposed to the reduction by £30 a week for members of the ESA wrag group?”

But she sidestepped the question, saying: "I think Macmillan alongside the government will recognise that I've already said that those that are on the support group will rightly not be affected and will be supported obviously because they are in the support group because they are ill.”

Social services cuts could be 'largest factor' in biggest annual rise in deaths for almost 50 years

Courtesy Independent 16th Feb 2016

'I suspect the largest factor here is cuts to social services - to meals on wheels, to visits to the elderly’

Government cuts to social services could be the “largest factor” in the biggest annual rise in deaths in England and Wales for nearly half a century, according to an adviser to Public Health England. 

The new preliminary figures, from the Office for National Statistics, claim that mortality rates last year rose by 5.4 per cent compared with 2014 – equivalent to almost 27,000 extra deaths. The increase is the highest since 1968 and took the total number of deaths in 2015 to 528,340. 

Death rates in England and Wales have been steadily falling since the 1970s but this trend has been reversed since 2011.

Advisers to Public Health England told the Health Service Journal (HSJ) that an investigation should be launched following the new statistics. They added that the figures show the elderly, especially women, were now bearing the brunt of a growing crisis in the National Health Service and cuts to social care.


  George Osborne under pressure to increase social care funding

  Tories protected richer pensioners at the expense of social care

  Adult social care is under 'strain', says the care commissioner

Professor Danny Dorling, from Oxford University and an adviser to Public Health England on older age life expectancy, said: “When we look at 2015, we are not just looking at one bad year. We have seen excessive mortality - especially among women - since 2012.”

He added: “I suspect the largest factor here is cuts to social services - to meals on wheels, to visits to the elderly.

"We have seen these changes during a period when the health service is in crisis, while social care services have been cut back.

"The statistics clearly show that this is the biggest rise we have seen since the 1960s. But this may well turn out to be the greatest rise since the Second World War, taking into account the sustained nature of the rise, as well as other factors, such as the trend for immigration of older people in the 1960s."

It was revealed last year that a £1.1bn cut to adult social care was leaving the country’s most vulnerable people “in jeopardy”. The warning came amid reports that councils had slashed their adult social care budgets by 21 per cent over the last five years. 

Dominic Harrison, an honorary professor at Central Lancashire University and Blackburn said to the HSJ that the changes were a “strong and flashing amber warning light [that] something is making the population more vulnerable to avoidable death”. 

Mr Harrison added: ‘One of the things this data may be telling us is it is just not possible… to contain costs, improve quality, reduce inequality and improve outcomes within such a rapidly diminishing resource envelope… we need to understand exactly what is happening if we are to prevent it continuing.’

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said a full investigation was needed urgently. She added: "These figures suggests something is going badly wrong…we owe it to older people to investigate why last year's statistics are so unusually high and to take firm action to address the causes, whatever they may be.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: "This is provisional data and our experts monitor deaths closely. Excess winter deaths can be due to a number of causes and deaths can fluctuate from year to year. We will continue to monitor this data closely and be advised by experts on any action necessary."

Council’s ‘disregard’ for Care Act triggers user-group complaint to CQC


Watchdog is considering information received on Norfolk council. Local authority disputes claims of unlawful care

Disability campaigners have reported Norfolk County Council to the Care Quality Commission for ‘disregarding’ its statutory duties under the Care Act 2014.

Equal Lives, which represents more than 50 user-led groups in the county, wants the regulator to investigate what it claims are ‘systemic’ failures in care and support planning.

The group says eligibility thresholds have been raised and care package reviews are being used to reduce, or completely withdraw, support for people regardless of need. It also claims the decision to remove ‘wellbeing’ payments for personal budget holders last year has had a “devastating impact” on service users’ lives.

Section 1 of the Care Act requires local authorities to promote wellbeing through their adult social care functions. The statutory guidance underpinning the act also says care package reviews “must not be used to arbitrarily reduce a care and support package”.

Council disputes claims

Equal Lives claims the local authority is breaching these duties and has submitted evidence from eight cases to the CQC.

The council told Community Care it “disputes any suggestion” of unlawful care but said it took the issues raised by Equal Lives “extremely seriously” and would review decision-making.

The CQC is considering the information received from Equal Lives. The watchdog has not inspected a local authority since 2010 but the Care Act allows the government to order it to do so in exceptional circumstances. The power has not been used since the act came into force last year.

‘I fear my personal budget will be cut to the bare minimum’
Martin suffers from scoliosis and Klippel-Feil syndrome. He says cuts to his personal budget mean he can no longer go to the gym, or have massages and short-breaks he feels aided his wellbeing and helped keep him out of hospital.

“Before my personal budget I was in and out of hospital having blood transfusions…[Now] my personal budget has been wiped out,” he told Equal Lives..

“I still have 10 hours PA support but nothing else now…My worrying fear is my PA support will be cut to the bare minimum. If that happens I won’t be going out as much and will be stuck indoors. They need to talk to us. They need to realise how much of an impact the cuts are making not just me, but many of my friends.”

‘Cut too deep and too fast’

Mark Harrison, chief executive at Equal Lives, told Community Care: “The council has had to make huge savings but they’ve cut too fast and too deep and people have been left without the help they need.

“People who’ve received social care for years are now being bumped out of eligibility even if their needs have increased. And it’s ironic that wellbeing payments were cut in the year when the Care Act came into force, given wellbeing is absolutely at the heart of the act.

“Norfolk has gone from one of the leaders in personalisation and co-production to situations where we’ve got people queuing up in our advocacy system after having their support cut.”

Harold Bodmer, Norfolk County Council’s director of adult services, said: “We have a statutory duty to ensure vulnerable people’s care needs are met. The care we provide is as set out in the Care Act and we dispute any suggestion that we are not following this.

“However we take the issues raised by Equal Lives very seriously, and have arranged to meet with them to talk about these. It’s important we demonstrate we do things correctly so we will also look again at the individual cases they have raised and I will be commissioning external scrutiny of our processes and reviewing our decision-making to ensure people have access to the right personalised care. If anyone has any concerns about their care we would always encourage them to contact us.”

Bodmer, who will take over as president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services in April, said adult social care departments were under “huge pressure” across the country and Norfolk was no exception.

“We’ve restructured every aspect of our department over the past five years in order to make considerable savings and with the clear purpose of minimising the impact of the budget reductions on people who use our services.”

Andrea Sutcliffe, CQC’s chief inspector of adult social care, said: “We have received concerns from Equal Lives regarding the provision of adult social care services at Norfolk County Council. We are considering the information and will respond directly in due course.”

A local authority is trying to push through millions of pounds of cuts to adult social care without allowing them to be properly considered by elected councillors, say disabled campaigners.


Labour-run Merton council has just completed a consultation exercise among residents of the south-west London borough, in which it warns that the adult social care budget faces cuts of more than £5 million – or about nine per cent – in 2016-17.

The planned savings include cuts of between five and 15 per cent to support packages, as well as cuts to respite care, meals-on-wheels and day centre staff.

In its formal response to the consultation process, user-led Merton Centre for Independent Living (CIL) said the cuts were “unreasonable” and “a false economy”, and would leave disabled and older people “isolated, trapped at home, stressed and barred from contributing to society”.

It added: “In response to the proposals, our members talked about having to take medication to cope with the changes, and their feelings of hopelessness as a result of continued cuts to services. Some spoke of giving up on life completely.”

Merton CIL’s chair, Roy Benjamin, has written an open letter to senior figures at the council, including council leader Stephen Alambritis, to express “deep concern” about the budget-setting process.

His letter points out that the business plan councillors will be asked to approve in March will only include details of £1.67 million of the planned £5.06 million cuts to adult social care in 2016-17.

This is because the remainder of the measures were approved in previous years as part of the council’s medium-term financial plans.

Lyla Adwan-Kamara, chief executive of Merton CIL, said she was “very concerned that cuts are being pushed through without appropriate scrutiny or discussion”.

She said it was “devastating” to hear her members talk about “the impact on their lives and whether their lives are worth living anymore”.

Only last month, the council settled a possible judicial review taken by David*, a former Independent Living Fund-user from Merton, partly by promising to carry out a full consultation on all of its cuts for 2016-17.

Now Merton CIL fears the council could already be breaching that agreement.

Louise Whitfield, from lawyers Deighton Pierce Glynn, who has been advising David and is continuing to provide advice on the consultation exercise, said: “I am concerned that the reality of the current consultation process does not give councillors a genuine opportunity to consider the full impact of all the proposed cuts in 2016-17 on disabled people.”

A council spokeswoman accepted that the business plan did not include full details of cuts agreed in previous years, but claimed that councillors considering the proposals would also have a report on the latest consultation – which does include that detail – to consider alongside the business plan.

Cllr Caroline Cooper-Marbiah, the council’s cabinet member for adult social care and health, said: “I would like to reassure CIL members that we will be considering the full £5 million in the proposed savings as part of balancing this year’s budget.

“We appreciate how important these decisions we are making are and will be looking in detail at the responses to our consultation, which covers all of the proposed savings.”

The proposed cuts will now be scrutinised at two cross-party committee meetings in January, before the council’s cabinet analyses them on 15 February, with final decisions to be made by the full council on 2 March.

DWP set to repeat ILF blueprint by transferring AA cash to councils

27/12/15 Courtesy John Pring

The government has announced proposals to end all new attendance allowance claims and transfer the savings to councils, but says its plans do not include scrapping disability living allowance for older people.

The provisional local government finance settlement for 2016-17 includes plans to abolish attendance allowance (AA) for new claimants, and pass the funding to local authorities in England and Wales to help them “support older people with care needs” through their adult social care systems.

AA is paid to over-65s who need significant levels of supervision or help, with a lower rate of £55.10 a week and a higher weekly rate of £82.30, and is designed for those who acquire those support needs after turning 65.

Those who are already claiming disability living allowance (DLA) or its working-age replacement personal independence payment (PIP) when they turn 65 continue to claim that benefit, rather than AA, and are not currently affected by the proposals.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) insisted that its planned changes to AA – which are subject to consultation – will not apply to existing AA claimants, although more details of its plans will be revealed when it publishes a consultation document in the new year.

But there are likely to be fears that abolishing AA for new claimants will eventually be followed by scrapping it completely, and possibly even extending this to over-65s claiming DLA and PIP, following the blueprint created by the coalition and Conservative governments for closing the Independent Living Fund (ILF).

ILF was temporarily closed to new members in 2010, before that decision was made permanent the following year.

Another 12 months later, ministers took the decision to scrap ILF completely and pass the non-ring-fenced funding to local authorities. The fund finally closed on 30 June 2015.

The AA proposals were announced quietly just a few days before Christmas, so there has been little reaction so far from disabled activists and user-led organisations.

But Vicky McDermott (pictured), the disabled chief executive of Papworth Trust, described AA as “a lifeline which allows many of our older disabled customers the opportunity to live independently… with low level practical support in their homes”.

She said: “Many of our older disabled people who are eligible for attendance allowance are not eligible for social care.

“This is for good reason. Attendance allowance is for early intervention and prevents disabled older people from requiring higher level social care needs.

“We would have significant concerns about a merger of social care and AA budgets as the applicants to these two funding streams have very different care needs.

“Monies that are currently allocated to disabled older people who are in receipt of attendance allowance must not be diverted into social care at the expense of these individuals.”

A DWP spokeswoman was unable to confirm that the money saved by scrapping AA for new claimants would be ring-fenced for adult social care, although she said: “We will not use devolution as an opportunity to take money out of the support offer for older people with care needs.”

And when asked whether DWP also planned to scrap DLA for those aged over 65, she said only that there were no plans to do so “under this proposal”.

Care funding settlement risks more unmet need and service failure, warns sector


Sector leaders say spending review does not provide enough money and call for urgent talks with ministers to find extra cash the government’s funding settlement for adult social care will not be enough to meet existing shortfalls or future cost pressures and risks causing more unmet need, service failures and hospital admissions.

That was the warning today from local authority, NHS, provider and charity leaders in a letter to cabinet ministers urging immediate talks designed to find additional funds for the sector.

Extra money

Contrary to predictions, chancellor George Osborne announced additional, targeted money for adult social care as part of the spending review, which has set government funding limits from 2016-20. This was from two sources:

  Additional money for the Better Care Fund – the integrated health and social care budget – paid directly to local authorities and rising to £1.5bn a year by 2019-20.

  The opportunity for councils to raise an additional 2% a year through a council tax “precept” with the money going to adult social care alone. If all councils did this in each of the four years of the spending review, the government estimates it would raise almost £2bn a year by 2019-20.

Despite this additional money for adult social care, overall, local government is due to see its funding fall by 6.7% in real terms from 2016-20.

In their letter to Osborne, health secretary Jeremy Hunt and communities secretary Greg Clarke, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (Adass), NHS Confederation, Care and Support Alliance (CSA) and Care Providers Alliance (CPA) warned that the money would not be enough to deal with current and future pressures.

Settlement will not resolve funding crisis

These include the impact of inflation, increasing numbers of older and disabled people and the new national living wage, which comes into force in April next year, on care costs.

“We believe the package put forward for social care will not enable us to fill the current gap in funding, cover additional costs associated with the introduction of the National Living Wage, nor fully meet future growth in demand due to our ageing population,” said the letter, signed by Adass president Ray James among others.

“There are also additional pressures that arise from the costs of regulation, cost of emerging policy, pensions and many others. Without concerted action across government and the sector, the settlement is not sufficient, not targeted at the right geographies and will not come soon enough to resolve the care funding crisis.”

The associations called for further talks with the Treasury, Department of Health and Department for Communities and Local Government to help “avert the crisis” in social care. Without additional money in the settlement, they warned that there was “potential for significant and adverse impacts”.

Service failure and unmet need

These included:

  An increasing number of older people, disabled people and their carers without any, or without sufficient, support to meet their needs.

  An acceleration of the failure of domiciliary, residential and nursing home providers, which would happen mostly in areas where most service users are state-funded and which are also the areas least likely to benefit from the council tax precept.

  An increasing pressure on the NHS with more people admitted to hospital and more delays to get people home safely.

Council tax concerns

The letter follows analysis suggesting that the council tax precept will raise less than half of what the government predicts – just £800m by 2019-20 – and its benefits will accrue disproportionately to well-off areas. Poorer areas will be disadvantaged because they have less ability to raise funds from council tax.

As reported in The Observer, the King’s Fund found that it was highly unlikely that all councils would levy the full precept in every year as some council leaderships had been elected on a platform of not raising council tax.

The letter from Adass, the NHS Confederation, the CPA and  to ministers also raised concerns about the council tax precept, asking ministers how it could be ensured that it delivered the money required for adult social care and did so equitably between areas.

Funding will come too late

The letter also warned that the money from the Better Care Fund would come too late to be of significant benefit. There will be no additional BCF money in 2016-17 and sector leaders are concerned that most of it will be provided in the later years of the spending review period, 2018-19 and 2019-20.

The associations also asked for clarification on how the government had funded the additional costs of the national living wage through the spending review. The new wage floor for people aged over 25, set at £7.20 an hour next April and due to rise to over £9 by 2020, is due to add about £1bn to council adult social care costs by 2019-20.

The letter comes ahead of the local government settlement, which will set out in more detail how much money councils will receive from government in 2016-17.


Adult social care complaints to the Ombudsman on the increase

Date Published: 12/11/15

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) is publishing its complaints statistics for adult social care – including data for both councils and independent care providers – in its Annual Review of Adult Social Care Complaints 2014/15.

The report is being published as part of the LGO’s role as the social care ombudsman, to encourage transparency and accountability across the whole adult social care complaints system.
The LGO received 2,803 complaints and enquiries about adult social care in 2014/15, which is 18% more than received the previous year. 
In those complaints where it carried out a detailed investigation, the LGO upheld 55% of cases by finding some form of fault with the council or care provider.
The areas most complained about within adult social care are: assessment and care planning; residential care; home care; charging and safeguarding.
The LGO continues to see a year-on-year increase in the number of complaints it receives about independent care providers, where there has been no involvement from a council, however this remains around 10% of its entire adult social care caseload.
Also highlighted in the report are some of the stories from the LGO’s complaints where people had been let down by a social care service, and the impact this had on them.
Local Government Ombudsman, Dr Jane Martin, said:
“We are releasing our statistics to encourage those providing and arranging social care to think about their own complaints procedures and ensure they are as accessible and accountable as they can be. 
“An increase in complaints locally may indicate a public more willing to come forward with concerns and a sector more inclined to listen. But, as the final stage of the process, the enquiries we receive indicate a local complaint procedure not working as it should and missed opportunities to have put things right first time around.
“As the health and social care sectors become more integrated, complaints systems must maintain clear lines of accountability so that the patient or care user understands where to turn to if they wish to raise concerns.” 

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at the Care Quality Commission, said: 
“I welcome this report from the LGO which reinforces the importance of people receiving high-quality and compassionate care from adult social care providers. Responding positively should people raise concerns about their care, or the care of a loved one, is a vital part of that.
“Through our inspection approach we look for evidence that people’s complaints are dealt with in the right way, by the right people and with the right action taken forward. Where we find areas of concern, these will be included in our reports and will influence whether we judge a service to be outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate.”

Ray James, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) said: 
“The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) report is a helpful commentary on the state of social care and illustrates a number of areas where improvements must be made in order to meet individual need and improved outcomes. In this context councils are striving to ensure high quality social care services and the reported increase in numbers of complaints suggests that more individuals are confident in that they can raise concerns in order that these can be resolved or improved.
“Over 1.3m people each year are recipients of adult social care services and the level of satisfaction with these services has remained high. However there is no room for complacency and ADASS welcomes the opportunity to work with the LGO, partners, staff, and importantly, the individual, to seek improvements wherever they can be made.”

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said:
“We are pleased to learn from the LGO that more people are exercising their right to report issues with their social care. We agree that the best care is carried out in an open culture where complaints can be dealt with between staff, service users and families. Where this is not the case, we see that the LGO plays a vital role as investigator and adjudicator. We are also pleased to see that increasing numbers of complaints are being upheld, while we note a need to increase public awareness about the different roles and responsibilities of the LGO and CQC.
“Importantly, this report highlights that poor communication is the cause of many complaints, and we would like to see local authorities communicating effectively to avoid situations where people’s care is affected and they are left confused. This is especially pertinent for complaints about the funding of care: local authorities must ensure that service users don’t experience delayed assessments or 15 minute care visits. The LGO notes that in care visits of this length, there is no time to properly communicate concerns.”

As the social care ombudsman, the LGO investigates unresolved complaints about all adult care services – including care that is privately funded as well as publicly arranged. The LGO is free to use, impartial and independent. If it finds fault, the LGO will recommend action to put things right. It publishes reports of its investigations to share lessons learned and help improve public services. All its decisions are published.

Are the DWP losing the battle?


The DWP is now losing battles on all fronts, as the last fortnight has proved repeatedly.

Because whilst the big benefits news has been George Osborne’s massive u-turn over tax credits, there have been a host of smaller reverses for the DWP.

The forced transfer from DLA to PIP is already running into serious delays – though there has been no change so far in the estimate that a quarter of current working age DLA claimants will get no award of PIP; Maximus is failing to carry out enough work capability assessments, because not enough health professionals want to work for them, and support group numbers are rising as a result; the courts have ruled against the benefits cap for carers and mandatory work schemes are being axed as more and more big companies and charities bow to activist pressure.

On top of all that, Ken Loach is making a film about benefits sanctions. He says that the situation is now even worse than when he made ‘Cathy come home’.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) now believes that it will take the DWP three years instead of two to reassess all current working age DLA claimants for PIP.

It blames the increase on Atos and Capita failing to carry out enough face-to-face assessments and suggests that the DLA to PIP transfer process is beginning to look as badly managed as the incapacity benefit to ESA one.

However, the OBR still believes that 26% of ‘lifetime’ DLA claimants will get no award at all when forced to claim PIP.

The OBR has also revised its estimate of the proportion of claimants likely to be in the support group long-term. In July it thought there would be 30%, now it thinks that it will be 38%.

One likely cause is the fact that Maximus are failing to carry out enough medicals, meaning that two thirds of the backlog of reassessment of current claimants has still not been cleared.

The reason that Maximus are not carrying out enough assessments is that they are having problems recruiting enough health professionals to do the job.

Their lack of staff means that an expected $30 million profit in the first year of the WCA contract has ended up as a $4 million loss. Maximus’ shares plummeted in value by 26% when the loss was revealed.

This is bad news for the DWP as well as Maximus. It suggests that the WCA is still tainted by the reputation it gained under Atos and even offering well above market wages is not enough to tempt health professional in sufficient numbers.

The government is axing mandatory work activity and community work placements. The announcement comes after years of protests and court action by claimants forced into unpaid work with no prospect of a job at the end.

The not so good news, however, is that a new scheme called the Work and Health Programme is to be introduced.

As one commentor has already suggested, this might be the beginning of attempts to force claimants into compulsory treatment programmes such as CBT or help to combat drug or alcohol misuse.

The High Court has ruled that the household benefit cap unlawfully discriminates against carers.

So far the DWP is still refusing to budge and has even issued an urgent bulletin to local councils warning them that the cap continues to apply. At least for single carers, however, they may have no choice but to obey the law in the end.

Even though the PIP assessment backlog is supposedly history now, we’re still hearing from people who are being asked to attend assessment centres many miles from their home, even when there is a centre nearby.

Councils still in funding crisis despite welcome recognition for adults’ social care


Promises of a 2% council tax precept and more money for the Better Care Fund have been gratefully received, but sector leaders raise concerns this is too little too late.When the Chancellor of the Exchequer, during one the most important events of the parliamentary calendar, pledges what looks like an extra £3.2bn a year to adult social care, the sector feels it has to preface any concerns by emphasising how welcome this recognition is.

Neglected sector

In a sector so long neglected, senior figures have rushed to emphasise their gratitude for even a settlement most agree remains a long way from resolving the funding pressures facing councils and providers.

The Autumn Statement gives councils a new ability to raise a 2% council tax ‘precept’, ring-fenced for adult social care, and pledges an additional £1.5bn to the Better Care Fund (BCF) by 2020.

The government says the council tax rise would raise almost £2bn if all councils take it up in full in each of the next four years, though think-tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has put the figure at £1.7bn. Unlike most of the existing money for the BCF, which is channelled through the NHS, the new money will go directly to councils

Embedding inequality

But critics are saying the settlement will embed inequality between areas and withhold urgently needed funding, potentially until the end of the decade. Meanwhile, concerns that adult social care will remain dangerously underfunded persist.

The government has said that, overall, funding for local authorities will fall by 6.7% from 2016-20, and this dip will be even sharper if councils do not obtain the full rise in council tax for adult care.

Regressive tax

Independent social care consultant John Bolton, formerly the Department of Health’s social care finance chief, says while any extra funding is welcome, the 2% precept is problematic.

“It is a regressive tax in the sense that the areas that have been hit hardest so far by a reduction in grant to local government are the areas with generally higher deprivation and the least ability to raise income through council tax.”

His concerns are borne out by figures put out by the IFS, which show that full take-up of the council tax precept would boost adult social care budgets by between 4% and 17%.

In addition, the government plans to phase out grants to local authorities and instead allow councils to keep 100% of their business rates. At the moment councils give half of their taxes from local business back the Treasury, from where it is redistributed according to need.

“If you keep your own business rates and there is no other redistribution mechanism then poorer areas are going to be disadvantaged. This is not an equitable solution for social care,” Bolton says.

Discretionary budgets

He adds government may still introduce special provisions to mitigate against the risk for councils in relying on business rates, but that remains to be seen.

James Lloyd, director of the Strategic Society Centre, says the 2% levy is “meaningless”.

“A 2% ring-fence that sits on top of a largely discretionary budget means councils will just spend any additional money they raise on social care, but may just reduce the money they would have spent on social care elsewhere.”

Bolton thinks in reality councils will have to take up the opportunity to levy more funds through council tax increases.

“Some will do it reluctantly, but they will need and want to raise money to protect their care services,” he says.

But adults’ services departments will still have to contribute to the overall reduction in council budgets.

Councils overspending

According to recent Association of Directors’ of Adults’ Social Services (Adass) figures, 76% of councils are currently overspending on their adults’ services budgets.

Lloyd says not only will authorities be able to raise comparatively less per head in poor areas through a council tax levy, but these areas are likely to have higher demand. He points out that there is a correlation between poorer areas and higher levels of disability, with local authorities with poorer and older populations like Blackpool struggling the most.

‘Heartless’ decision to stop election access funding ‘is breach of UN convention’

courtesy John Pring


The government is making it harder for disabled politicians to stand for elected office by failing to renew a fund that paid for their disability-related campaign expenses, according to a candidate in next month’s parliamentary by-election.

Simeon Hart who is standing for the Green party in Oldham West and Royton, was the only British Sign Language-user to stand for election in May’s general election.

Hart was able to use support from the Access to Elected Office (AEO) scheme to pay for the BSL interpreters he needed to campaign.

But the fund – which offered grants to disabled people to pay for their additional impairment-related costs in standing for election as a councillor or MP – has been lying dormant since the general election while the government carries out an independent review of its effectiveness. Now Hart is having to rely on crowdsourcing funding to pay for interpreters during the by-election campaign. He said: “Becoming a candidate in elections and by-elections is supposed to be open to anyone eligible in the UK. “Yet my experience has been a challenge and I know that many people with a disability will be put off trying to become an elected politician. “My party and I have a detailed plan for how we can reduce fuel poverty and keep parks public in the constituency and I am unable to articulate my plans as well as the candidates from other parties because of problems finding and paying for an interpreter. “If the government is serious about making elections a level playing-field, it will reconsider its heartless decision to scrap the Access to Elected Office fund.” By 10.30pm today (26 November), he had raised £970 of the £3,000 he needs to pay for BSL interpreters during the campaign.

Deborah King, co-founder of Disability Politics UK, said she believed the government was in “clear breach” of article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which guarantees disabled people the right to participate in public and political life “on an equal basis with others”.

She said: “The convention expects signatory states to make reasonable adjustments to enable participation in the political process.

“The Green Party and Simeon need to make a formal complaint to the UN about the breach.” She said that disabled people now had even less representation in the Commons than they did before the general election, after Dame Anne Begg lost her seat, while David Blunkett retired.  King said: “We need to support a new generation of disabled people who want to be politicians.

“Candidates will miss out on funding whilst the evaluation [of the fund]is going on.”

David Buxton, director of campaigns and communications for the British Deaf Association, supported Hart’s call for government action. He said: “We are disappointed that the government has not yet made a decision about whether this vital funding will continue. “This delay creates uncertainty for potential Deaf and disabled candidates who wish to stand at elections next year and are currently unsure whether they will get the support they need towards communication and other areas. “It is imperative that a decision is made immediately, as selection meetings for some areas have already started to take place. “We now urge the government to prove their commitment to the spirit of the Equality Act by supporting diversity and allocating funds now to any potential candidate, as well as to Simeon, who is now actively canvassing. “We also expect them to complete their evaluation and review about the future of the fund as soon as possible.”

In September, the Equality and Human Rights Commission called on the government to reopen the fund, as part of its submission to a UN inquiry into the rights of disabled people to participate in political and public life.

What the government’s spending review means for social care


There are few crumbs of comfort for social care as George Osborne prepares to unveil his spending plans for 2016-20

The spending review will set government spending levels from 2016-17 to 2019-20, and in doing so shape the amount of resource local authorities in England will have over this period to spend on services including social care. It will be delivered by chancellor George Osborne on 25 November.

Overall spending will have to shrink in line with the government’s plan to eliminate its budget deficit by 2019-20. But the impact on different services will differ significantly. The NHS, schools, overseas aid and defence will either see their budgets protected or increased slightly.

According to analysis of the government’s latest plans, day-to-day spending on other services must fall by 18.8% (£23.7bn) over this period. This includes government spending on local authorities (Source: Institute for Fiscal Studies).

Why is it so important for social care?

The 2015 spending review is so critical because it follows five years of cuts to local government budgets determined chiefly by the 2010 spending review. While councils have striven to protect children’s and adults’ social care from spending reductions, through efficiency savings and substantial cuts to other services, local government leaders say this strategy is running out of road.

This is particularly because both adults’ and children’s services are facing mounting levels of demand, driven by demographic and economic pressures. So further reductions will hit local authorities – and social care service users and professionals – hard. Yet government has given no indication that it will extend the largesse it has shown the NHS, schools, overseas aid and defence to social care.

What is local government asking for?

The Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Adult Social Services have produced a number of submissions setting out what they want from the spending review for local authorities in England including:

Adult care pressures

The LGA and Adass say the following pressures must be met by the spending review in relation to adult social care:

1. The national living wage. This will set a wage floor of £7.20 an hour for people aged over 25 from April 2016, and is expected to rise to over £9 an hour by 2020. This is due to have a substantial effect on care providers; those partly or predominantly serving a publicly-funded clientele will need councils to cover the increased costs. The LGA says that the additional annual cost for council adults’ social services departments will rise to £1bn by 2020.

2. General pressures on adult social care. These pressures are the result of inflation and demographic pressures. Combined with the impact of the national living wage, the LGA estimates these will add £2.1bn to annual costs for councils in adult social care.

3. Market pressures. Besides inflationary/demographic pressures, the LGA and Adass claim there are (as yet unquantifiable) other pressures on councils arising from weaknesses in the care market. These are the result of years of fee squeezes for providers that has resulted in the risk that many providers will exit the market (both for care homes and home care) and that those remain will face increasingly struggles to remain profitable and recruit staff on the wages they are able to afford (particularly as the economy recovers in other sectors such as retail).

4. The Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. Based on estimates from the Law Commission, the LGA has said that councils need an additional £172m a year to meet the costs of the Cheshire West judgement in relation to the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.

5. The Independent Living Fund. The LGA has warned that councils need to have funding to meet the ongoing requirements of taking responsibility for clients formerly served by the Independent Living Fund. The ILF spent £271m in England in 2014-15 (the last full year before its closure) and the LGA wants to see councils’ budgets boosted by something like this amount to compensate them for their added responsibilities.

Children’s services pressures

The LGA has also highlighted the following pressures on children’s services:

1. Rising demand for children’s social care. The LGA says that since 2008, there has been a 22% rise in children’s social care referrals, a 65% rise in the number of children subject to a child protection plan and a 16% rise in the numbers in care. The LGA also points to increased referrals as a result of high profile child sexual exploitation cases, while the number of pupils with special educational needs related to learning disability is expected to rise by more than a quarter from 2014 to 2023.

2. The LGA is warning that councils are facing pressures from two directions. On the one hand, the number of unaccompanied asylum seeking children supported by councils is rising sharply, growing by 29% in 2014-15. On the other, the Immigration Bill includes provisions to change the support provided to failed asylum seekers and other migrants. According to the LGA, these are likely to lead to an increase in the numbers of asylum seekers and migrants with no recourse to public funds, who may become destitute and require assessment and support from local authorities.

Separately, in a letter to education secretary Nicky Morgan following May’s general election, ADCS president Alison O’Sullivan said it was “notoriously difficult to estimate the funding gap for children’s social care”. However, she said it was “vital that planned spending for children’s services in the next parliament is based upon the twin realities that demand and demographic pressures in the child population, particularly in areas of deprivation, will continue grow”.

She pointed to a correlation between deprivation and rates of referral, numbers of children subject to child protection plans and numbers of children who are looked after.

What will happen if the pressures are not met by extra funding?

Councils are saying that they have almost reached the end of the road in terms of both making efficiency savings and using money from other services (libraries, culture, road maintenance etc) to safeguard social care. The LGA estimates that councils diverted £2.5bn from other services and made £2.5bn in efficiency savings to protect adult social care from 2010-15 (Source: LGA/Adass Spending review submission).

In relation to adult care, the LGA and Adass say that the consequences will be:

The last point was echoed by ADCS president Alison O’Sullivan in her letter to Nicky Morgan. She said that the association was worried that any future cuts to spending would impact in particular on non-statutory services such as children’s centres and youth provision, “reducing capacity in the system to intervene early before problems escalate”.

What is the government planning to do through the spending review?

All unprotected government departments have been asked to model cuts to their budgets of 25% and 40%, including the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which provides most government spending on local authorities. It was announced on 9 November that four government departments had pledged to each cut their budgets by 30% over the spending review period, including the DCLG. However, this will not apply to its spending on local government, so we’re no clearer about how local government will be affected.

But the government’s plan is to, essentially, do away with central government funding for local authorities so that, mostly, all local government revenue is raised locally. This will be done by allowing local authorities to (mostly again) retain all of the income from the business rates they collect locally. Currently about half of this is returned to the Treasury with most (though not all) of this redistributed to local authorities as government grant (known as ‘revenue support grant’).

The government plans to give all of this money to local authorities. On paper this will mean local authorities will have more money (because more is collected locally in business rates and then given to the Treasury than is redistributed back to councils). However, George Osborne has said that in return for the extra money he will give local authorities more responsibilities (ie burdens) than they currently already undertake.

So local government could lose out in a way that is equivalent to a cut in central funding by being given more burdens than is equivalent to the additional money they are getting in business rates, i.e. they could have more money, but they have so much more to do that they will only be able to manage by cutting existing services.

Where does local government get its money from?

In 2015-16, government figures indicate that of around £48.95bn in revenues collected by all local authorities in England (including district councils and fire authorities):

1. 42% came from council tax.

2. 21% came from business rates collected and spent locally.

3. 19.5% came from the main government grant (revenue support grant).

4. 7% came from the Better Care Fund, providing NHS funding for adult social care (though this claim has been strongly disputed by the LGA on the basis that it allocates all of the NHS’s contribution to the Better Care Fund to adult social care, when much of it will have been spent on health services).

5. 10.5% comes from other small government grants.

(Source: DCLG)

How the spending review may impact on local government?

All of the spending areas above will be affected by the spending review but in different ways.

Council tax

Council tax is the safest source of local government revenue as councils know that it is not going to get cut. But its growth will almost certainly be restricted.

Each year, the government sets a council tax increase limit beyond which councils must hold a referendum to enable them to sanction the higher increase. This year the referendum threshold was 2% so rises of this level and above required a positive referendum vote or could not go ahead. Only one referendum was held this year, by Bedfordshire Police, and it was roundly rejected. It would be surprising if the government permitted a higher referendum threshold for 2016-17 or for the rest of the spending review period.

The other way in which government has limited council tax increases is by giving councils a grant in return for freezing rates. This year the grant paid was equivalent to a 1% rise in council tax.

Overall, in 2015-16, local authorities that did not accept the freeze grant increased council tax by 1.3% in England (Source: Cipfa).

Also, even though council tax is the biggest source of local government revenues overall, its share differs significantly from authority to authority. Generally, poorer authorities are more dependent on central government grant and richer ones more able to raise revenue through council tax.

So wealthier councils are in a good position here as not only will they be getting most of their revenue from council tax but they will be able to boost this share of their revenue. Poorer authorities are in a bad position because they will be getting, say, a quarter, of their revenues from council tax, meaning they can only boost a small share of their revenue.

In December, when it announces the local government settlement for 2016-17, the government will estimate how much council tax will go up by to work out what will be happening overall to local government budgets.

The government is yet to indicate whether it will offer councils a freeze grant. In a forecast published in July, the independent Office for Budget Responsibility assumed that council tax would rise in line with the rate of consumer price inflation. This is currently zero but is due to rise to 1% next year and then rise gradually to 2% by 2020. This would mean that council tax rises slightly more quickly from 2017 onwards than in 2015-16, unless the chancellor seeks to restrict this either through a freeze grant or by lowering the referendum threshold.

The LGA will strongly resist any moves to reduce the referendum threshold below 2%; indeed they want to see it lifted altogether.

Business rates and revenue support grant

George Osborne has said that revenue support grant will be phased out by 2020 with councils able to (mostly) keep all of their business rate income instead.

Currently, business rates is divided into two halves: the “local share” and the “central share”. The central share is sent to the Treasury and redistributed as revenue support grant (RSG), which is distributed according to the needs of each area.

The local share is mostly retained by the individual local authorities except for a system of “tariffs and top-ups”, under which richer areas pay a “tariff” to top up the business rate income of poorer areas. So this is another way of redistributing money but less extensive than the revenue support grant.

By 2020, all business rates will be part of the “local share”. There will be no revenue support grant.

In 2015-16, the central share of business rates was £10.2bn, which was greater than the level of RSG (£9bn) ie councils collectively sent £1.2bn more business rates income back to the Treasury than they received back in RSG. Osborne has said that, by 2020, all of this money will be kept by local government; but in return for the extra money councils will be given more responsibilities.

Osborne has also said that the system of tariffs and top-ups will continue but will be fixed. So, if you are a rich authority you will still be paying a tariff to top-up poorer authorities; but from 2020 onwards at least, this tariff will not rise in line with business growth; as the authority rakes in more business rate income it will get to keep this increase rather than see any of it redistributed away to poorer authorities.

It seems unlikely that this initial level of tariffs and top-ups will be as redistributive from richer to poorer areas as revenue support grant (if it were, what would be the point of the reform?) so it is hard to see how poorer areas will not be disadvantaged. And if local authorities are able to keep all of the growth in business rates thereafter, then it is hard to see how this will not widen inequalities between richer and poorer areas (See this LGA report for more information on the system of tariffs and top-ups).

Osborne has also said that, while currently business rates are set at a uniform rate, in future councils will be able to set a lower rate than this to attract business. Only combined, city-wide authorities with an elected mayor will be able to raise business rates above the uniform level – and that will only be to pay for new infrastructure and if they get the support of the local business community to do that (Source: George Osborne’s Tory party conference speech, 2015).

So, the spending review should determine the following:

The Better Care Fund 

The Better Care Fund, launched in 2015-16, will continue for each year of the spending review period. Under this, NHS England will be required to mandate clinical commissioning groups to place a sum from in a pooled budget with local authorities. It may be that one or two specific local government grants for adult social care will be placed in this too, as happened in 2015-16. But the bulk of the mandatory part of the BCF will continue to come from CCGs – this year £3.46bn of the £3.8bn mandatory part of the BCF came from the NHS (Source: DH/DCLG). This was topped up by £1.5bn in voluntary contributions to the BCF from CCGs and councils.

So the question is whether the sum that NHS England is mandated to contribute will increase. The government has already promised that NHS spending in 2020-21 will be £8bn higher than in 2015-16 in real terms (ie once inflation has been taken into account). NHS leaders feel that all of this £8bn (and more) is needed to keep the NHS on its feet and are strongly opposed to siphoning some of it off to social care through the BCF. It is worth noting that the government’s promise on NHS funding could be interpreted more or less generously (see this Guardian article) with knock-on impacts for the BCF/social care.

Specific government grants

There are a multitude of other government grants that councils currently get that appear to amount to about 10% of local authority revenues. These are designed to help councils meet specific responsibilities. Here are some examples of grants for adult social care in 2015-16.

It would be surprising if these grants were not reduced significantly in order to contribute to the government’s planned savings target for local government. One option for the government would be to make the responsibilities relating to these grants part of the additional responsibilities that it expects councils to perform from the additional income they will be receiving from keeping their business rates. And in that case it becomes a question of whether the money councils are losing through the reduced specific grants is greater then what they will be gaining in business rate income.

How likely is the government to listen to local government’s wishlist?

There are a few crumbs of comfort for local authorities:

However, probably more significant is the fact that government has not made social care (for adults or children) a protected area, unlike the NHS, defence, overseas aid and schools. The money earmarked for the Care Act funding reforms has not been budgeted for let alone guaranteed for social care. So it seems too much to hope for that government will reserve this for social care. It is more likely that cuts – and not growth – will be the story for local authorities for the next four years – at significant cost to social care service users.

Government Finally Reveals That More Than 4,000 Died Within Six Weeks Of Being Deemed ‘Fit For Work’


Figures released today show that between December 2011 to February 2014, 4,010 people died after being told they were fit for work, following a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). 40,680 died within a year of undergoing the WCA, making a bleak mockery of any claim that the WCA being a real and valid “assessment” of any kind. Or that our welfare system is “supportive” to those in most need, in any real or meaningful sense. Those people were clearly not at all “fit for work”.

Of the total figure, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has revealed that 1,360 died after losing an appeal against the DWP decision that they were “fit for work”.

The statistical release actually tells us very little and makes inferences regarding causes of deaths almost impossible, as well as presenting data in a way that makes useful comparisons impossible. This is of course intentional.

The Government release does show that more than 80 people a month are dying after being declared “fit for work”.  2,380 people died between December 2011 and February 2014 shortly after being judged “fit for work” and after having their claim for ESA turned down.  7,200 claimants died after being awarded ESA and being placed in the work-related activity group (WRAG), which is an ESA group category composed of people whom the government had judged were able to work towards getting back into work over time.

The figures have only been released after the Information Commission overruled a Government decision to block the statistics being made public.

Since November 2012, many campaigners, including myself, have been asking the Government to release the figures of people who died after being told they were fit for work. As Chi Onwurah, Labour MP for Newcastle, said earlier this year:

When bad decisions are made I know they can have a life-destroying impact on vulnerable people. So it makes sense for the Government to share that data.

The DWP originally published statistics in July 2012  after several of us submitted Freedom of Information requests (FOIs) for mortality rates related to the WCA. The released statistics indicated that 10,600 people had died between January and November 2011 who had been claiming Employment Support Allowance (ESA), and where the date of death was within six weeks of the claim ending.

The DWP publication caused huge controversy, although many people disagreed over what the figures actually showed. Ministers subsequently blocked publication of any updated figures.

At the time, I made a statistical cross-comparison of deaths, and the information released showed that people having their claim for ESA stopped, between October 2010 and November 2011, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ceasing, who were until recently claiming Incapacity Benefit (IB) – and who were migrated onto ESA – totalled 310. Between January and November 2011, those having their ESA claim ended, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ending totalled 10,600. The DWP did not provide information regarding whether or not people had died before or after their benefit claim was ended, which (intentionally) complicated matters.

However, there is a very substantial and significant statistical variation over a comparatively similar time scale (although the 10,600 deaths actually happened over a shorter time scale – by 3 months) that appears to be correlated with the type of benefit and, therefore, the differing eligibility criteria – the assessment process itself – as both population samples of claimants on ESA and IB contain little variation regarding the distribution in the cohorts in terms of severity of illness or disability. 

Bearing in mind that those who were successfully migrated to ESA from IB were assessed and deemed unfit for work, (under a different assessment process, originally) one would expect that the death rates would be similar to those who have only ever claimed ESA.

This is very clearly not the case. And we know that the ESA assessment process has actually excluded many seriously ill people from entitlement because of the media coverage of individual tragic cases, when a person deemed fit for work by Atos has died soon after the withdrawal of their lifeline benefit, and of course, such accounts of constituents’ experiences and case studies, as evidence, informs Parliamentary debate, as well as the ongoing Work and Pension Committee inquiry into ESA, details of which may be found on the Hansard parliamentary record.

The official watchdog ordered the Government to release further information about how many people have died after going through the WCA which had resulted in a decision that they were fit for work, since the last publication in 2012.

The ruling was made after an appeal by Mike Sivier, a fellow campaigner, freelance journalist and carer that runs the Vox Political blog, who has himself been pushing for the figures to be published since the summer of 2013.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has also called for an urgent enquiry into the figures, and said:

We urgently need an enquiry into the government’s back-to-work regime. These disturbing findings cannot be swept under the carpet.

The fact that more than 80 people are dying each month shortly after being declared ‘fit for work’ should concern us all. These deaths relate to just one benefit – Employment Support Allowance (ESA).

We need a welfare system that supports people to find decent jobs not one that causes stress and ill health.

The figures show that of the 4,010 who died after being told they were “fit for work”, 3,720 were in receipt of ESA, while 290 were on either Incapacity Benefit or its replacement, Severe Disablement Allowance.

The DWP were keen to stress throughout its “Mortality Statistics” report that: “Any causal effect between benefits and mortality cannot be assumed from these statistics.”  

However, it cannot be assumed that there is no causal effect either, and I’ve argued at length that in fact evidence shows there IS a clear statistical correlation between the frequently used controversial Work Capability Assessment, the withdrawal of benefits and increased mortality.

I’ve argued many times that the correlation warrants further investigation into the causes of the statistically significant increase in mortality rates of those on Employment Support Allowance. The Government have continued to flatly deny that correlation, claiming it was based on “anecdotal” evidence.

Priceless comment from a Government that values the use of fake statistics to justify punitive, cruel “reforms” to our Social Security.

It’s inconceivable that the Government did not know in advance that cutting sick and disabled people’s benefits would cause them harm. It’s not exactly difficult to grasp that if you impose situations of a lot of stress and strain on very ill people, by, for example, imposing a constant revolving door of assessment, appeal and re-assessment on them, perpetually invalidating their experiences of being extremely ill, and then demanding that they find a job when they are incapable of coping and too ill to work, and withdrawing their LIFELINE benefits, that these people are likely to suffer severe exacerbations of their illness and may die.

The increase in screaming “scrounger” headlines, scapegoating and Nazi propaganda-styled justification narratives in the tabloids that precedes each of the Tory Government’s punitive policies is another indication that Ministers know in advance that those policies are potentially damaging and detrimental to the vulnerable people they are aimed at.

The deliberate delay in the publication of the mortality figures is not only a disgrace for a so-called democratic Government that promised more “transparency and accountability” when it first took office, it also indicates that the Government had some awareness of the likely impact of their “reforms” to disability benefits, (hence the persistent refusal to carry out the cumulative impact assessment,) and the continued refusal to undertake an investigation into the causes of the increase in deaths, along with keeping the mortality figures from public scrutiny, indicates a Government withholding the evidence of policies that they knew in advance are likely to be detrimental to those they are aimed at, and also, of attempting to avoid justified criticism and to silence those of us the policies are likely to harm.

Disabled woman ‘feels pressured by Access to Work’ to hand back Motability car


A disabled woman says she feels pressured to hand back her Motability vehicle, after the government’s Access to Work (AtW) scheme told her it will continue to pay her travel expenses to work if she does so.

Pauline McGuigan, from Dunbartonshire, said the suggestion from AtW “makes absolutely no sense”, but that she will probably be forced to accept it so she can keep working.

She works three days a week for a large insurance company – a job she has had for nearly 20 years – and uses AtW funding to pay for her daily taxi journeys to and from work.

Last week, Disability News Service reported that AtW threatened to stop paying the £90-a-day for taxis she needs to get to work – she contributes £5-a-day herself – because she has a Motability vehicle and should use that instead.

McGuigan has told AtW that she cannot access the car in her power-chair, and has no-one who can drive her to work and collect her at the end of the day.

She doesn’t drive herself, because she has no use of her legs and limited use of her arms, and cannot use a personal assistant to drive her to work because she needs the powerchair, while she has been told the car cannot be converted to allow her to travel in her powerchair.

She and her partner currently use the Motability car at the weekends, when he is available to push her in a manual wheelchair, which can be carried in the car.

But this week, AtW told her it would continue to fund her taxis to and from work if she returned her car to Motability.

She is set to accept AtW’s suggestion.

She said: “It is the only option that I have got that I can still keep my job, so that is what we are going to do. We will have to get a cab at the weekends.

“I can’t get my head around the whole thing.”

She said Motability had been “really, really good” and had agreed not to charge her for ending her contract early.

She has not ruled out applying for a grant from Motability in the future to try to lease a wheelchair-accessible vehicle that can take her power-chair, but because she and her partner both work, she thinks it unlikely that they would be successful with such an application. Now their only option is to take out a loan to buy a car, a solution that is likely to be far more expensive than the Motability option, which was designed specifically for disabled people.

A DWP spokesman said they did not want her to have to return her Motability vehicle, and that they had offered a number of solutions to the problem, including obtaining a similar Motability vehicle to her current car, which could be adapted to take her power-chair.

He said: “At no point have we encouraged Ms McGuigan to hand back her Motability vehicle.

“We want to provide Ms McGuigan with the freedom of a car and her local Motability supplier can offer a similar vehicle to the one she has now which can be adapted for her specific needs.”

DWP said that AtW had to support the most “cost-effective” solutions for its customers, that no final decisions had been taken on her award and that it was continuing “to explore all options for the best solution”.

UN to investigate Duncan Smith’s benefit cuts as report damns his attack on the mentally ill


While the probe looks at the effect of cuts on single mothers, children and the disabled, the Work and Pensions Secretary sends job advisors into food bank.

Iain Duncan Smith is three times more likely to hit mental health sufferers with benefit sanctions than he is to help them into work, a damning report reveals.

An analysis by the charity Mind found almost 20,000 people with mental health issues had their benefits docked last year.

Yet only 6,340 mental health sufferers were helped to find work during the same period.

The figures came as the United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) announced it will be investigating the Government’s benefit cuts.

The probe will look at whether the reforms have had a disproportional impact on single parents, children and the disabled and whether the tax credit cuts will leave people without an adequate standard of living.

The Committee will also investigate what steps are being done to cut the number using food banks and whether mental health services are adequate in the light of the cuts.

The research by Mind, obtained by a Freedom of Information request, will pile pressure on Mr Duncan Smith to halt his cruel sanctions regime that sees those on benefits lose money if they are a few minutes late signing on or fail to look for work.

According to Mind there are 250,000 people with mental health issues who receive the Employment and Support Allowance. Of these, 19,259 were sanctioned last year.

Paul Farmer, the chief executive of Mind, said: “It is perverse that people with mental health problems are more likely to have their benefits stopped than they are to be supported into employment.

“We have long been warning the Government that a punitive approach towards people who are out of work because of their health or disability is not only ineffective but is causing a great deal of distress.”

Meanwhile, Mr Duncan Smith announced yesterday that job advisers are to be stationed in food banks.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said people seeking emergency food parcels would be given help on how to find work.

The scheme is being trialled at a food bank in Manchester but could be introduced into other centres if it is successful, he said.

“I am trialling at the moment a job adviser situating themselves in the food bank for the time that the food bank is open and we are already getting very strong feedback about that,” he told the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

“If this works and if the other food banks are willing to encompass this and we think it works we think we would like to roll this out across the whole of the UK.”

The Child Action Poverty Group said it already had advisers in food banks “dealing with misery caused by the Department for Work and Pensions.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Owen Smith said: “The revelation that the government is considering placing DWP staff in food banks across the country, highlights the grim reality that people depending on emergency food aid is increasingly a central part of Iain Duncan Smith’s vision for our social security system.

“Under the Tories food bank use has risen exponentially, leaving more than a million people depending on emergency food.

“This is in no small part due to the Secretary of State’s incompetent and callous running of the DWP. The fact that Iain Duncan Smith is so relaxed about extreme food poverty that he has allowed it to become an accepted element of the national planning for the DWP is deeply worrying.”