Tag Archives: Judicial Review

Benefit Cap Back In The Courts, Join The Fight Against This Nasty Policy

unwaged-care-workFew policies have been as immediately devastating as the Benefit Cap which has seen many families plunged into imminent homelessness overnight as vital Housing Benefits are slashed.

These were not people living in Kensington mansions as the establishment press have claimed.  Often it was those in expensive but low quality emergency accommodation, or who lived in areas where rents have soared out of reach.  Few would have believed even a decade ago that people on low incomes living in places like Tottenham or Lewisham would be priced not just out of London but soon the entire South East.  The reason for this has nothing to be with high Housing Benefits but an out of control housing market combined with a chronic shortage of social housing.  Yet the government has chosen to punish the poorest children for this market failure by forcing them to move – sometime 100s of miles – away from their schools, friends and wider families.

Very soon things are set to get even worse with a new, lower Benefit Cap on the way.  Mass social cleansing of the poor will no longer just be a phenomena in the south of England, but will reach out into cities across the UK.  This is the end of a functioning safety net for huge swathes of people.  Lose your job, and you will probably now lose your home and have to move hundreds of miles away, to an area of high unemployment where rents are low.  Which of course will keep the workers in line – the real intention of this and other welfare reforms.

There is no clear evidence that people have found work due to the Benefit Cap as Iain Duncan Smith repeatedly claims.  And what of those who have.  Imagine the horrifying insecurity of a parent in low paid work, desperately clinging onto a their job knowing that if they get sacked they and their children face homelessness.  People working in sectors known to be exploitative like cleaning and care work.  The end of adequate social security in the cities is a recipe for employer exploitation and abuse.  And doesn’t this government just know that.

One group who cannot simply just find a job to escape the cap are full time carers who are also affected.  This group are required by law to provide care for 35 hours a week or they face losing the pittance of Carer’s Allowance – just £62.10.  Only those caring for their partner or  a disabled child are exempt from the cap.

Two people hit by the cap are currently challenging this nasty policy in the courts, arguing that it is unlawful and unfairly impacts on carers and those they care for.  The High Court has ordered an urgent judicial review, rejecting the DWP’s argument that the claim should be dismissed.  A hearing takes place tomorrow and a vigil has been called outside the court to support the carers.  Meet at 9.30am on Wed 21 October outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand (off Kingsway) London WC2A 2LL (Temple tube).

The vigil has been called by Winvisible and is supported by Disabled People Against Cuts, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, Taxpayers Against Poverty and many more.  Further details are on facebook.  Please spread the word.

For background on the case visit: http://www.scottishlegal.com/2015/06/01/legal-challenge-to-benefit-caps-impact-on-disabled-people-and-carers/

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Iain Duncan Smith In The Dock Again Over Unlawful Atos Assessments

MHRNThe DWP are back in court next week for the closing part of a successful challenge to the despised Work Capability Assessment (WCA).

This is the test run by Atos which is used to find people ‘fit for work’ and stop their sickness or disability benefits.  It is mired in chaos with a huge backlog of appeals and an ever growing number of tragic deaths linked to the process.  Even Atos themselves are pulling out of the assessments after fierce campaigning saw their carefully managed corporate identity demolished due to their involvement in the cruel and bungled system.

The WCA has also had its share of legal problems after a Judicial Review last year ruled the assessments are unlawful under the Equalities Act for those with a mental health condition.   Rather than accept this defeat and improve or scrap the tests for this group of claimants – or better still everybody –  Iain Duncan Smith appealed this decision and lost.  During the time this took many people will have seen their mental health worsen, been admitted to hospital or even taken their own life due to being forced to undergo assessments which are not suitable for their condition.

Next week’s court case will largely be about what amendments can be made to make the WCA legal.  As Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN) explain:

“Under the Equalities Act of 2010, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is required to make “reasonable adjustments” to mitigate any disadvantages experienced by disabled people. The forthcoming hearing will be concerned with establishing what adjustments the DWP should make to the WCA process. We already know from the original hearing that they plan to run a pilot study to assess the “reasonableness” of obtaining further medical evidence. We want to ensure that any study will be fair, honest and approached with an open mind. Unfortunately we find it hard to trust that this will happen.”

A vigil called by MHRN and supported by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) will be held outside the court next week on Tuesday, 8th July 2014 at 12 noon to 2 pm.  Head to the Royal Court of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL.  Full details at: http://dpac.uk.net/2014/07/vigil-for-the-wca-judicial-review-tues-8th-july/

MHRN say they have been too cautious about publicising this important victory.  Sometime people have been working so hard for so long that they don’t even see when or what they’ve won.  But the Work Capability Assessment – introduced by Labour and which looked unbreakable at the time the current government weren’t elected – is beginning to look broken.  That didn’t happen by accident.  It happened because disabled people and benefit claimants have fought these vicious assessments in the courts, on the internet and in the streets.

The real opposition to this Government has not been the Labour Party, the unions , charities or even the growing range of celebrity left-wimgers.  It has been people who are disabled, sick, carers or people on their own with kids to look after.  People dealing with shit housing, homelessness, low or no wages, the bedroom tax, workfare, benefit sanctions and most of all poverty.  The people that liberal do-gooders call vulnerable and the Tory press calls benefit scum.  Yet we keep winning and those victories should be shouted from the rooftops.  As MHRN say:

“We believe that it is vital that people do know about this victory. After all, outrageous lies about disabled benefit claimants have been shouted from the rooftops in much of the national press. Yet where have the front page headlines about this victory been? Nowhere! We now want to rectify this by making as much noise as possible about the truth: that the WCA does not fairly assess people with mental health problems and there has been terrible suffering as a result.”

Please blogs, tweet,share and spread the word about the MHRN/DPAC vigil, and about the court case.

Don’t forget this Friday’s Independence Day Party outside the DWP and around the UK called by DPAC.

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Chris Grayling: The So-Called Justice Secretary Who Wants To Be Above The Law

bungling-chris-graylingThe Chris Grayling comedy show had tragic consequences as he ran rampant at the DWP so it is no surprise that he has exported his unique brand of dishonest chaos to the Justice Department.

Grayling wants to tear up the rule book on Judicial Reviews – the means by which people can challenge the lawfulness of decisions made by public bodies.  This is based on his obsession with ‘left wing’ campaigners who he says are abusing justice by holding the government accountable to the same laws as the rest of us.

Along with being a compulsive liar, Chris Grayling is notoriously paranoid.  Back when he was the bungling Employment Minister he bizarrely accused the Socialist Worker Party (SWP), a minor and decaying Trotskyite sect, of hacking his email account.  Grayling sees reds under the bed everywhere and claimed the public’s disgust towards workfare – which saw thousands of people contacting well known companies demanding they pull out of unpaid labour schemes – was all down to an SWP plot.  Along with Iain Duncan Smith, Grayling even tried to pretend this form of workfare didn’t exist – and when DWP documents proved that it did – those documents were mysteriously altered to remove references to mandated workfare.

When a Freedom of Information request was made asking for the names of companies and charities involved in workfare schemes, Grayling pulled every trick in the book to dodge the decision by the Information Commissioner’s Office that this information was in the public interest and should be released.   The DWP are still dragging their feet on supplying this information.

It was inevitable that putting a bent bastard like Grayling in charge of the courts would lead fierce opposition from the legal profession, with some now calling for his resignation.  One of his first moves was to tear up the right to legal aid.  Now he wants to remove the right for people to hold Government to account when it breaks the law.

The Tories have long pretended to be the party of small government, but in reality are quite happy to use legislation as a blunt instrument to attack against anyone they have taken a dislike to – whether that be striking miners or uppity lawyers.  This is the same party that made it illegal for schools to talk about non-heterosexual relationships in the 1980s and later even brought in laws specifically to clamp down on certain kinds of music.

When Tories whinge about the nanny state, or meddling bureaucrats, what they usually mean is they haven’t got exactly what they want and so are having a tantrum.  Or they’ve just got been given a parking ticket.  But when it comes to stamping out any dissent to their vile policies they are as happy to don the jackboots as any tin-pot dictator.

In a well timed protest, UK Uncut will be literally taking to the streets to take direct action against the plans to slash legal aid.  Join them on October 5th and help spread the word: http://www.ukuncut.org.uk/blog/press-release-roadblocks-will-go-ahead

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DWP In the Dock Again, This Time Over Benefit Cap

civil-servant-in-the-dockAnother of Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship welfare reforms is to face a court challenge it has been reported this week.  Four families are to bring a judicial review against the cap on benefits at £500 a week which was recently brought into force in three London boroughs and is due to be extended throughout the UK from July.  The families will argue that the cap is ‘discriminatory and unreasonable’.

This latest legal challenge comes in the same week that the DWP faced a humiliating court defeat over the Atos assessments for sickness and disability benefits – which were ruled to discriminate against people with mental health conditions.  This followed last week’s news that the DWP had lost a tribunal hearing and was ordered to release the names of the companies and charities profiting from workfare schemes.

These are the very same workfare schemes which were ruled unlawful in the Appeal Court earlier in the year.  This judgement forced Iain Duncan Smith, with the shameful support of Labour, to introduce emergency legislation to steal compensation payments due to those who had benefits sanctioned under the illegal schemes.  Despite this, the DWP are clearly on a losing streak and long may it continue.

The department may hope to be on safer ground with the benefit cap, which the Tories believe has been one of their most popular reforms.  Yet along with the housing benefit caps, in many ways this policy has been one of the nastiest of all.

The benefit cap has been the one policy that has absolutely guaranteed that tens of thousands of claimants –  almost all with children – would lose their homes.  There is not even a remote possibility of families being able to scrimp and save to pay the rent if they live in the capital.  Across huge swathes of London grasping landlords charge far more in rent than even the maximum now allowed in benefits, leaving these families with no choice but to leave the city.  One of the richest cities in the world, is about to export it’s poorest residents to places like Bradford and Birmingham where unemployment is already soaring and public services are stretched to breaking point

It is not the fault of claimants that rents have sky-rocketed out of control in London and that no government has made any meaningful attempt to address the chronic lack of social housing.  The difficulties involved in finding a private sector flat, where many landlords demand ‘No DSS’, is already one of the main causes of homelessness in the city.  Often claimants have faced eye-watering rents simply because these were the only properties available.  Slum landlords have been all too happy to exploit the situation, with astronomical rent demands for shitty rooms in B&Bs or flats that they wouldn’t be able to let to someone who was working – and who had a choice about where they lived.

Yet the Government has chosen to punish claimants themselves for the greed of landlords by forcing them from their homes. Two of the families who have launched the legal challenge against the benefit cap have recently fled domestic violence.  Many claimants in high rent London properties have been those who have faced desperate circumstances and have done what any decent parent would – which is made sure their children have a roof over their heads by any means possible.  These children, who may already have faced significant trauma due to witnessing or experiencing abuse, homelessness and just simple poverty, will have settled in these new homes, gone to school and made friends.  Now they are to be uprooted again, possibly hundreds of miles away, whilst watching their parent(s) disintegrate under the pressures of forced relocation and a new threat of homelessness.

Rarely has a government policy been so precision targeted to attack the most marginalised in society.  People who may just have been starting to put the pieces of their lives back together in safe if shabby accommodation, only to have that security destroyed as they face being cast out onto the streets.

And like so many of Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms, the policy was based on a lie – which is that there were claimants living in areas or properties that those in work could not afford.  Housing Benefit  is available to families in and out of work alike.  Working families in the capital living in high rent areas would be just as eligible for housing benefits as those out of work. Even families on salaries of £30k plus may have been eligible for some housing benefit in parts of the capital.

Housing Benefit has  functioned as a crude sticking plaster for a dysfunctional housing market, and now that sticking plaster is being ripped away.  The consequences of this, for some of the UK’s poorest and most vulnerable children, will be terrifying.  All those who have cheered this reform from the sidelines should think of those children whose lives are about to be destroyed as a result of this bodged experiment in social cleansing.

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Work Capability Assessment Faces Court Challenge

atos_kills_bannerA judicial review into the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) begins tomorrows when two members of the Mental Health Resistance Network will argue that the process is discriminatory towards people with mental health conditions.

A protest in support has been called outside the hearing on Wednesday 16th January at noon, head for the Royal Courts of Justice, The Strand, London WC2A 2LL – and spread the word.

Mental Health Resistance Network, who are now on facebook, explain the reasons for the case:

“The reason that the ESA process discriminates against people with mental health disabilities is that the process requires ESA applicants to self-report how their ability to work is affected by their disability. While this is challenging enough for many people with physical disabilities, it can be a distressing, and sometimes an impossible task for many people with mental health disabilities. This is because some people with mental health disabilities do not always have insight into their condition, and others may find it difficult to articulate the effect of their disability on their fitness to work for reasons of shame or otherwise. Furthermore some mental health disabilities are complex, fluctuating, and often hidden, and these are by their very nature difficult for Atos Health Care Professionals (who are often not doctors and in general have no expertise in mental health) to properly assess at a short face-to-face assessment. In addition, people with mental health disabilities are often particularly vulnerable to the stresses of the assessment process itself, and often cannot cope with marshalling medical evidence explaining their condition. This means that they face substantial disadvantage as a result of the way in which ESA claims are processed.”