Category Archives: PIP/Disability Cuts

Hundreds Of Disabled People Sent On Workfare Every Week, Is Unpaid Work The New Segregation?

workfare-tesco

Disabled activists protesting in 2007 against Tesco, an early pioneer of unpaid work. Pic from here

The new Minister for Murdering Disabled People, Nick Harper has teamed up with David Cameron this week to boast about huge numbers of disabled people being sent to work without pay, often for profit making companies.  The gushing press release forms part of the DWP’s cringe-making Disability Confident campaign, the latest gimmick to cover up the endless vicious attacks on disabled people by the department.

According to the figures around 45,000 people registered as disabled with Jobcentres have been referred to an unpaid work placement since 2011.  Of those 29,000 were sent on the Work Experience programme and 16,000 on Sector Based Work Academies, which the DWP now appear to be claiming leads to a guaranteed real job.  This is a lie, Sector Based Work Academies promise a job interview only as this guidance for employers wishing to scrounge free workers makes clear (PDF).

Both of these schemes are officially voluntary.  However with claimants facing benefits being stopped or sanctioned for trivial reasons and seemingly on the whims of Jobcentre staff then little could be said to be voluntary under the current regime.  Claimants who refuse could simply be sent on a mandatory workfare scheme instead, and many have been.  Almost 22,000 disabled people have been forced onto Mandatory Work Activity since 2011, bringing the total number of known unpaid disabled workers to 67,000 in the last three year.  This is more than the 61,000 disabled people who the DWP say have got jobs through the Work Programme – and as ilegal reports this largely represents young disabled people on Jobseeker’s Allowance, not those unable to work and claiming ESA, the benefit for people with more serious conditions or disabilities.

But even this does not tell the whole story of the number of disabled people who this Government has bullied into working without pay.  Supported Internships can involve up to a year’s unpaid work with private companies and are targeted at young people with a Learning Difficulty diagnosis or Special Educational Needs, Other young disabled people may have been sent on Traineeships – up to six months unpaid work leading to a vague possibility of eventual employment as an Apprentice at far below minimum wage.  Some disabled people will now be facing the prospect of being forced to attend a full time unpaid Community Work Placement for six months for so-called charities or community organisations.  And the number of disabled people forced into workfare on the Work Programme – which can even include people on out of work sickness or disability benefits – is simply unknown as no-one has any real idea what the companies running the scheme are up to.

If all these people are added to the figures then it seems likely that the number of disabled people sent on workfare is higher than the number who got actual real jobs through welfare-to-work schemes.  This is what the DWP means by being Disability Confident, an army of unpaid disabled workers, many only there under the threat of vicious benefit sanctions.

The abrupt closure of the Remploy factories was a nasty and vindictive act but few would argue that segregated employment for disabled people is something that should be encouraged into the future.  But at least the Remploy workers got paid.  A new segregation is now emerging.  Instead of real paid jobs, in an inclusive work force, thousands of disabled people now face endless and ever more draconian unpaid work schemes with many losing their benefits completely if they won’t, or can’t attend.

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Shame Of The Church of England: Dean of Westminster Allows Hundreds of Police To Attempt Stamp Out Of Disabled People’s Peaceful Protest

westminsterabbey-protest2

This is what Christianity looks like

The leadership of the Church of England showed themselves to have the morals of sewer rats today after hundreds of police were drafted in to prevent a peaceful protest by disabled campaigners.

A protest was taking place in the grounds of Westminster Abbey, where Disabled People Against Cuts, backed by Occupy and UK Uncut, intended to establish a camp for independent living to highlight the shameful decision by the current Government to close the Independent Living Fund (ILF).  Whilst many people were able to enter the grounds of the Abbey, with several disabled activists taking control of the gates, they were soon joined by hundreds of police.

Whilst the protest was being established a letter was presented to the church explaining the reason for the disruption.  This was completely ignored by the Dean of Westminster, John Hall, who instead of meeting with the protesters, or even giving a statement, cowered inside and allowed the police to carry out his dirty work.  At the time I left two people had been arrested, for reasons which are currently unclear.  Over 200 police kettled the 60 or so protesters, which included many severely disabled people who use the ILF themselves.  Police refused to allow any food or drink for those inside the Abbey grounds, and even prevented a severely disabled person’s personal assistant from entering the kettle.

At one point, so desperate were the police to arrest someone for nothing,  they charged into the crowd causing people to fall onto several wheelchair users.  Such was the sudden aggression of police it is a miracle no-one was severely injured although unconfirmed reports suggest one disabled person did have to receive treatment after this assault.  Police also attempted to remove access ramps for wheelchairs users to prevent them from being able to peacefully protest in the Abbey grounds.  Equipment was damaged and police prevented the planned disabled toilet and other infra-structures to be created which would have led to a safe event.  Throughout the afternoon all those inside the grounds remained at risk of violent arrest, and in fact, as you read this, that might be happening.

The protest was held on private property, meaning that the church leadership were happy for all of this to take place.  At any point the Dean of Westminster could have demanded that police stand down, yet he chose to allow this abuse to continue unchecked throughout the afternoon.  Hundreds of people contacted him on twitter demanding the protest be allowed to continue without this police harassment.  The Dean ignored all of them.

Throughout the afternoon all attempts at negotiation with the church leadership were rebuffed.  Instead the Dean of Westminster let the boots and fists of the ever willing London Met do his talking for him.

Whilst no-one expects anything less from the police, who have a history of attacking and injuring disabled protesters, the action, or inaction of the church leadership is a fucking disgrace.  The Dean of Westminster would rather disabled people are abused, kettled, assaulted and kept without food or water than allow a creative protest against vicious cuts which are likely to lead to some people being forced to live in institutions.

The latest news is that those inside the Abbey grounds are currently meeting to decide what to do next.  With no word from the Church then staying could mean mass arrests in the ground of the Abbey.  Whatever the occupiers decide you can show support by telling Westminster Abbey @wabbey and the Dean of Westminster @deanwestminster exactly what you think.  After today’s shameful behaviour he must be hoping that the existence of hell really is just something liars use to scare children with.

Then come and join next Friday’s Independence Day demonstration outside the DWP and make it the biggest protest yet to show that no-one is going to be frightened away from fighting to save the ILF.

For the latest news follow @Dis_PPL_Protest on twitter or visit their website at:  http://dpac.uk.net/

Read the statement from DPAC on the reason for the protest: http://www.independentliving-fightback.uk/online/

UPDATE:  Protesters have now left rather than face violent arrest.  Also, as someone has pointed out on twitter, Westminster Abbey is a Royal Peculiar, meaning it is technically under control of the Queen.  Day to day management of the site however is down to the Abbey meaning it is almost certain the police would have stood down had the Dean demanded it.  Yet he didn’t even try.  All the signs so far suggest he did the opposite and would have been happy for the police to clear the site.  There has still been no comment made about today’s events by either the Dean or Westminster Abbey.  Of the two arrested, it seems one was not held and was released during the protest and another was taken to Charing Cross police station.

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Disabled Protesters Occupy Grounds of Westminster Abbey and Set Up Camp

DPAC-LogoDisabled people have today occupied the grounds of Westminster Abbey in protest at the closure of the Independent Living Fund.

In a bold escalation of the campaign against this vicious move, the protesters are currently establishing a camp for independent living,  Campaigners want to draw attention to this Government’s treatment of severely disabled people who depend on the ILF to lead independent lives.

The camp is being organised by Disabled People Against Cuts with backing from Occupy and UK Uncut and comes after over three years campaigning against the closure of the ILF, a move which has already been found illegal in the Appeal Court.  Disabled people’s organisations have warned that shutting down the fund is likely to lead to some people being forced to live in  institutions due to local council cutbacks.

The camp will help build for an Independence Day protest on July 4th which could see the biggest demonstration yet outside the Department of Work and Pensions.  Meet at 2pm outside the DWP, Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1

In the meantime those at the Abbey have called on people to come down and support the occupation, and help spread the word!

Please blog, tweet, share etc.

For the latest news follow @Dis_PPL_Protest on twitter or visit their website at:  http://dpac.uk.net/

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Disabled Protesters Heading Back To DWP As Fight To Save Independent Living Heats Up

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A previous protest outside the DWP in protest at the closure of the ILF

The fight to save the Independent Living Fund (ILF) is heating up with a fresh court challenge to this needless cut which could lead to some disabled people being institutionalised to save money.

A judicial review has been launched against the closure whilst protest is also hitting the streets with an Independence Day Party starting outside the DWP on July 4th.

The ILF provides vital support for 18,000 severely disabled people and is used to top up to local authority funding for people with particularly high support needs.  Should the fund be closed then people will be dependent on already cash-strapped local councils leaving them little control over their care and support packages.  There are very real fears that this could lead to disabled people being placed in institutions, or trapped in their own homes with no options for living independently.  Combined with local authority cuts already taking place, such as the removal of taxi-card schemes and care funding being slashed, the result  of closing the ILF will be devastating.

A legal challenge against the closure has already been successful when the Appeal Court ruled the the move was illegal in November last year.  This was down to a ruling that the then Minster for Murdering Disabled People Esther McVey hadn’t bothered to learn the facts about the impact of closing the ILF and therefore was unable to make an adequate assessment of the consequences.  McVey was eventually moved and put in charge of workfare, however new minister Mike Penning spitefully announced in Spring that the closure was now back on due to them filling out a form properly or something.

According to Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) the DWP has since admitted that “in considering the proposal once again it had not consulted with any organisations or individuals outside of Government. It had not gathered any additional information from local authorities or other sources about what level or type of support former ILF users would receive from social services once the ILF element was removed and how many people would be likely to go into residential care or lose their ability to work or study.”

Therefore the fresh legal challenge will be along the same lines as the first.

A nationwide day of action for independent living has also been called for July 4th.  In London an Independent Living Tea Party is being held which promises fun. games, entertainment, and of course civil disobedience.  The event will begin at 2pm outside the DWP, Caxton House, Tothill Street SW1.

Campaigners have called for action around the UK, to find out more visit: http://dpac.uk.net/2014/06/july-4th-our-independent-living-day-party-and-picnic-london-and-around-the-country/

There will also be a Twitter Party using the Hashtag #IL4JULY.  Please share, tweet, blog and help spread the word about all events.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Nastiest Shambles Yet, Quarter Of A Million People Awaiting New Disability Benefit Decision

atos-professionalsPersonal Independence Payments (PIP) have lurched even further into chaos with over quarter of a million people waiting months on end for a decision on the new benefit.

PIP is Iain Duncan Smith’s replacement for Disability Living Allowance, the benefit paid to many disabled people to meet costs associated with mobility or care.  The new system launched for new claims in April last year and means sick and disabled people will be forced to attend demeaning and stressful assessments carried out by the notorious Atos and bungling Capita.  The purpose of these assessments is to strip benefits from a fifth of disabled people.

335,000 people have claimed the new benefit since it began last year, but appallingly only just over 80,000  have had a decision made on their claim.  Some people have been waiting for months.  In August last year 95,500 people had claimed Personal Independence Payments meaning that the wait for some has been around eight months and counting.

For people on low incomes this wait will be devastating.  Many PIP claimants will be newly disabled, or will have faced an existing health condition becoming significantly worse.  Some will simply not have the money to pay for care or mobility until the DWP can get their act together.  This delay will mean people trapped in their homes, or going without vital care at a time in their lives when they’ve really got better fucking things to be dealing with.

Atos recently pulled out of similar assessments for out of work sickness and disability assessments and know only too well that most medical professionals are far to ethical to involve themselves in grubby benefit tests that harm people’s health.  It is possible that much of the shambles is down to a failure to recruit enough healthcare professionals who have no desire to be part of Iain Duncan Smith’s horrifying attempt at destroying disabled people’s lives.

Whatever the cause the disaster that PIP has become shows just how much the safety net of the welfare state is being swept away by a combination of callousness and incompetence.  If you become sick or disabled, and need the help you’ve already paid for to live an independent life, then expect to strung along for months and treated like dirt by the DWP.

To download the latest statistics go to: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/personal-independence-payment-official-statistics-june-2014

Thanks to Richard Cole for the pic.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Disabled Protesters Blockade The DWP In Fury At The Closure Of The Independent Living Fund

dwp-protest2Up to 100 disabled people and supporters held a noisy protest outside the Department of Work and Pensions yesterday which ended in a spontaneous blockade of all four entrances into the building.

The protest was held after Minister for Murdering Disabled People Mike Penning said the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) would still go ahead despite a court decision last year.  The closure of the fund, which allows the most severely disabled people to lead independent lives, had been halted when the Court of Appeal ruled that the Government had acted unlawfully by not paying ‘due regard’ to the rights of disabled people under the Equality Act.

Campaigners had hoped that this would mean the end of this spiteful and nasty move which will lead to some disabled people having no choice but to live in institutions.  Sadly Mike Penning announced last month that the Government intended to press ahead with the closure of the ILF, and this time do it legally.

Yesterday’s demonstration, which was called by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), began with songs and speeches outside the main entrance of the DWP after campaigners ignored the fenced off pen where the police presumably hoped the protest would be held.  Many speakers demanded that Mike Penning, or one of his representatives, should come out of the building and face some of the people whose lives will be destroyed by closing the ILF.  No-one came, and at one point the DWP even refused to accept a letter of protest showing how much the department really cares about ‘involving disabled people’ in decision making.

As anger grew at this cowardly snub, several disabled people made their way round to the side of the building where DWP officials had been sneaking in and out through a side-door.  Bungling G4S security staff were unable to stop protesters blocking this entrance and when they found another way to let people in and out of the building a part of the crowd broke off and gathered outside that door as well.

Acting alongside a small police presence, security staff decided that no-one should leave the building through this exit either .  As 5pm came and went, this meant hundreds of DWP employees had some much needed time to reflect on the harsh realities of their nine to five existence.  Eventually police re-enforcements arrived and staff were  let out of the front door accompanied by songs, shouts and occasional caustic barracking.  Not one of the people leaving the building were prepared to admit that they worked for the Office for Disability Issues based inside, or even that they had met Mike Penning -  who seems as unpopular at the DWP as he is everywhere else.

Some DWP staff whinged about not being able to go home on time, claiming current policies were nothing to do with them, they just carried them out on behalf of Penning and Iain Duncan Smith.  As one protester pointed out however, a few minutes trapped in their office is nothing compared to the lifetime disabled people face being trapped in their homes, or even institutions, due to the scrapping of the Independent Living Fund.

For more on the campaign to save the Independent Living Fund, and to get involved visit Disabled People Against Cuts’ website or follow them on twitter @Dis_PPL_Protest

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Save The Independent Living Fund – May 12th

DPAC-Logovia Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC)

Save the Independent Living Fund
“Nursing Homes Stink, They’re Worse than You Think.
We’d Rather Go to Jail Than Die in a Nursing Home”

Join us to protest against the closure of ILF on Monday, May 12th 3pm-5pm outside DWP head quarters, Caxton House, Tothill Street, SW1H 9WA.

Nearest accessible tube –Westminster.

Click for Face Book Event

Bring things to make lots of noise. We have asked Mike Penning Minister for disabled people to join us but in case he doesn’t we need to make sure he knows we’re there.

More info at: http://dpac.uk.net/2014/05/join-the-save-ilf-protest-monday-may-12th-london-dwp/

Please help spread the word and tweet on the day in support using hashtag #SaveILF.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Just For The Record, The WCA Is Not Being Scrapped, Yet

atoskillsgrafThe report in The Daily Record which claims that Atos style assessments for sickness and disability benefits are to be scrapped should sadly be treated with caution.

There is no doubt that the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) is in chaos, after the announcement from Atos that they are pulling out of the contract to run the tests.  This has led to a predictable tantrum from Iain Duncan Smith, who is now running round telling everyone he was going to dump Atos anyway and is threatening them with huge fines.  This is the same Atos that he is dependent on to sort out the shabby assessments for Personal Independence Payments, which are currently also mired in chaos.  But there has been no announcement as yet that the WCA is to be scrapped, and the report the Daily Record’s story seems to be based on does not call for this.

The story refers to the recently published response by the Government to the review of the Work Capability Assessment carried out by Dr Paul Litchfield.  The Government have accepted all but one of the recommendations in this report, which includes agreeing to carry out an impact assessment into whether in some cases a decision could be made without a face to face assessment.

Litchfield recommends: “The Department carries out a full impact assessment on an alternative process whereby DWP Decision Makers triage cases” and that “where suitable and sufficient evidence is available on paper and a face-to-face assessment would provide no additional value, the Department should make a decision without referral to its HAP;”

The Government have responded: “DWP will carry out the recommended impact assessment to inform decisions about if and how triage of cases by Decision Makers might be implemented.”

So unless the Daily Record know something that no-one else does, and if they do urgent clarification is required, that unfortunately, appears to be it.  An impact assessment into whether in some cases a face to face assessment is not required – as in fact already happens in some cases – will be carried out.  A small step forward perhaps but a long way from the claim that assessments are set to be scrapped.  Atos still kills, for now at least.

Some of Litchfield’s recommendations will be welcomed, such as a six month time limit before someone who has recently won an appeal against a WCA decision can be called for re-assessment.  Others are more dubious, including the idea of involving the Government’s snake oil salesmen, the nudge unit, in the drafting of correspondence sent to claimants about the WCA.

Perhaps the most telling part of the Government’s response to this review is the recommendation that is rejected.  Litchfield makes the fairly reasonable suggestion that so-called Healthcare Professionals carrying out assessments of people with mental health problems should have: “suitable and sufficient previous experience of dealing with people with mental health problems”.

We’re not having that say the DWP, who have deferred agreement on this point complaining that they don’t know what suitable and sufficient means.

All of the recommendations and the Government’s response can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/296328/wca-review-year-4-response.pdf

Litchfield’s initial report is at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/265351/work-capability-assessment-year-4-paul-litchfield.pdf

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Huge Victory For Sick And Disabled Claimants As Atos Chased Out Of Vicious Benefit Assessments

atoskillsgrafFrench IT firm Atos saying they are planning to pull out of Work Capability Assessments, the shambolic and cruel tests designed to strip away benefits from sick and disabled people, is the most humiliating blow yet for Iain Duncan Smith’s bodged attempt at reforming social security.

In a stunning victory for campaigners, Atos say the Work Capability Assessment isn’t working, for them, claimants themselves and even the hapless DWP.  The attempt at early withdrawal from the contract comes just days after protests were held outside Atos assessment centres in towns and cities across the UK.

The astounding announcement also sheds new light on The Guardian story which revealed that the DWP were secretly plotting to get rid of Atos and bring in new contractors to run the tests.  There is truly no honour amongst these thieves as Atos and the DWP bicker in public about who dumped who first.  Meanwhile poverty pimps like Capita and G4S will be salivating at the prospect of Iain Duncan Smith stuffing their mouths with gold to try and keep his bungled welfare reforms alive.

Atos has blamed abuse and death threats made towards their so-called ‘healthcare’ professionals as one reason they want to withdraw from the contract early.  Yet Atos must have known that taking on a contract designed to impoverish sick and disabled claimants would lead to them becoming despised.  It is no surprise that a very small number of people facing the WCA displayed what social workers call ‘challenging behaviour’.  Any social care professional or even copper could have warned them  about this.  If Atos were unable to put in policies and procedures that kept their staff safe then they only have themselves to blame.

When people have been driven to suicide by the vile activities of this company, their whining about few scabby doctors being slagged off on twitter rings a little fucking hollow.  The truth is that Atos have seen their brand made toxic all over the world by their involvement in these tests – which only represent a very small part of their business.  This is almost certainly the real reason they have decided to embarrass the DWP by very publicly trying to abandon this contract.

This announcement does not represent the end of the WCA, but it could be the beginning of the end.  Anything that at least slows the bastards down should be welcomed.  This victory should be used as a springboard to escalate the campaign against whichever odious profiteers decide to take over the hated WCA.

If Atos think they are off the hook however they are sorely fucking mistaken.   There has been no announcement from the company about their involvement (along with Capita) in assessments for Personal Independence Payments – the replacement for Disability Living Allowance designed to cut benefits from 20% of disabled people.  These tests have barely begun and already are a shambles with claims taking months on end to administer.  It will be those in and out of work alike who face these assessments which are little different from the WCA that Atos have just condemned.  If the company think they’ve had problems with out of work sick and disabled people just wait and see what happens when they are assessing lawyers, other doctors, and even MPs.

Atos are also expected to be involved in George Osborne’s mass workfare scheme which begins in April.  Claimants already found ‘fit for work’ by Atos could be abused by company again and forced to undertake 780 hours of unpaid ‘community work’ just for the crime of being unemployed.

Atos may be on the run, but they should be ruthlessly chased down until they pull out of all government contracts designed to bully, impoverish and harass sick, disabled or unemployed people.  Until that day comes, Atos should remain firmly in the firing line.

DPAC, Black Triangle & WOW Petition: Joint Statement on the Bizarre ATOS Exit Strategy http://dpac.uk.net/2014/02/dpac-black-triangle-wow-petition-joint-statement-on-the-bizarre-atos-exit-strategy/#sthash.Yq28TezO.dpufFollow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Half Of Claims For New Disability Benefit Rejected As Massive Backlog Develops

atos-finalEarly figures from the DWP reveal that half of all claims for Personal Independence Payments (PIP) have been rejected. Appalling the figures also show that claimants are waiting up to six months for a decision on their claim whilst a massive backlog is developing.

PIP replaces Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and is currently being rolled out for new claims only in some parts of the UK.  Most DLA claimants will not be re-assessed until Autumn 2015 when the notorious Atos, along with bungling Capita, will begin the work of stripping vital benefits from a fifth  of disabled people.

PIP began in April with 31,900 claims made by July, jumping to 99,600 by August and 171,800 by October.  At the end of the year 229,700 total claims had been made for PIP.  Despite this just 43,800 decisions had been made by December 2013.

These figures include people with terminal conditions who are fast tracked through the process under special rules.  When this group is removed from the figures, just 34,200 decisions had been made by December, despite a caseload of 22o,300 people awaiting a decision by the end of the year.

Most of these claims were rejected.  For those not covered by the ‘Special Rules For Terminally Ill People’ only 37% of PIP claims were successful.

Government ministers have lied through their teeth to justify stripping away this vital benefit from disabled people.  Last year Esther Mcvey made the astonishing claim that 50% of DLA claims were successful on the basis of the application form alone with no corroborating medical evidence.  The true figure was around 10%.

McVey also claimed that “vast majority of claimants get the benefit for life”.  In truth only 23% of people received an ‘indefinite award’ in 2010 (PDF), and 24% in 2009.

The worst impact of PIP is set to come after the next election – and Labour have not said they will halt the re-assessments if they win.  But these early figures give a hint of the vicious shambles to come with almost a quarter of a million disabled people already waiting months on end for a benefit they need – but probably will not get.

To read the latest figures visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/personal-independence-payment-management-information

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid