Sunday, 25 November 2012

Response to Minister for Disabled People's letter of 17th November 2012

This is my response to this letter:

Dear Ms McVey,

Thank you for your reply to my letter dated 12/10/2012, on support for disabled people.

I'm glad to see you take on board the importance of ensuring disabled people have the right support in place, and in jobs that suit individual requirements. However, some of my points have not been addressed, so I feel the need to write back asking for clarification.

You haven't really addressed the point that there are some disabled people for whom work is not a realistic expectation.

There are those with life-limiting conditions who may not wish to spend their final months on Earth sitting in the Jobcentre chasing menial and minimum-wage work. There are people living with conditions that cause relentless chronic pain and fatigue where going to work would render them unable to do anything else, once back home.

People with profound and multiple impairments who require 24 hour care may wish to enter work with a lot of support, but pressure should not be put on people to enter the very competitive world of the "jobs market" when they can't compete on a level playing field.

Why are people who can't participate in the regular working world expected to live on a pittance, fighting a cruel system for every penny that is begrudgingly given, government who on the whole persist in selling the line that disabled people are scroungers? When MPs themselves commit far more fraud than benefit claimants (some 30% involved in the expenses fraud scandal, compared to 0.5% of benefit claimants.)

Given the closure of the Independent Living Fund which supported those who are so profoundly impaired they require 24 hour care, or would need to live in institutions, how can you even think of saying your government wants to help the most vulnerable? Council budgets are being slashed, social care is only going to those in desperate need, so what is going to replace the ILF?

Access to Work will clearly help those who are in work, with work-related costs. But for support with life outside work. PIP will have a smaller caseload, so there will be more disabled people going totally unsupported with daily living tasks. What are we supposed to do? What will the estimated 100,000 disabled people who lose Motability vehicles supposed to do? How will they remain independent, or if working, remain in work having lost their accessible transport?

I have heard the line "we have consulted extensively with disabled people and disabled people's organisations." before, but I'm having trouble believing it without seeing evidence.

thanks to an FOI request by Disabled People against the Cuts I found the following organisations were met with during PIP consultations, but very few had positive things to say:

1.  Action for ME;
2.  Action for Blind People
3.  Action on Hearing Loss;
4.  CALL Scotland;
5.  Capability Scotland;
6. Citizens Advice
7.  Centre for Mental Health;
8.  Child Poverty Action Group;
9.  Crohn’s and Colitis UK;
10. DIAL Peterborough;
11. Disability Action In Islington;
12. Disability Alliance;
13. Disability Lambeth;
14. Down’s Syndrome Association;
15. Dystonia Society;
16. Ecas;
17. Enfield Disability Association;
18. Essex  Coalition  of Disabled People;
19. Family Action;
20. Glasgow Centre for Inclusive Living;
21. Hackney Carers;
22. Hayfield Support Services with Deaf People;

23. Headway Glasgow;
24. Haemaphilia Society;
25. Inclusion Scotland;
26. Independent Living in Scotland Project;
27. Leonard Cheshire Disability;
28. Limbless  Association;
29. Lothian Centre for Inclusive Living;
30. Macmillan;
31. Margaret  Blackwood  Housing Association;
32. Mencap;
33. Middlesborough Welfare Rights Unit;
34. MS  Society;
35. Mind;
36. Momentum Scotland;
37. National AIDS Trust;
38. National Autistic Society;
39. National Deaf Children’s Society;
40. National  Rheumatoid  Arthritis Society;
41. National  Federation of the Blind;
42. Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People;
43. Parkinson’s UK;
44. Papworth Trust;
45. People First;
46. Poverty Alliance;
47. Quarriers;
48. Royal National Institute of Blind People;
49. Scottish Association for Mental Health;
50. Scope.

Of that list, the following organisations publicly do not approve of your reforms, having real concerns for how disabled people will fare if the reforms go through as planned.

Mencap: "Mencap’s chief executive, Mark Goldring, said: “We are extremely disappointed by the government's rejection of the Lord’s amendments, and failure to listen to the concerns of disabled people and their families."

The RNIB: "This report adds to a growing evidence base that shows the Government cannot follow through on its Big Society agenda and its commitment to give disabled people control and independence by stripping away the very benefits and services that enable them to take part in our communities"

Mind: "we are still very worried about the impact the introduction of the new assessment will have on people with mental health problems." "we remain unconvinced that the breadth and detail of activities to be considered is sufficient to properly capture the barriers to participation faced by people with mental health problems"

The National Autistic Society: "We are concerned about how the assessment will work for the new benefit, as well as about proposals for regular re-assessments."

Scope: "Scope warns that the government is in danger of repeating mistakes with its new benefit assessment.
The charity says that up to two million disabled people risk losing essential financial support because the new £6 billion Personal Independence Payment, introduced to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA), will use a flawed eligibility assessment." 

Leonard Cheshire: "There have been some positive changes agreed in the Lords, but as the plans stand there are still real fears that many thousands of disabled people will be pushed into poverty and financial hardship if they are found ineligible for support through the new Personal Independence Payment"

The National AIDS Trust: "NAT does not consider the proposed functional assessment a more accurate method for identifying disability-related needs than the existing DLA assessment" "NAT is extremely concerned that the reform process is being driven by a pre-determined 20% budget cut" "The decision to focus PIP on those with ‘greatest needs’ is also a move away from the principles of DLA"

Capability Scotland: "These amendments could be the difference between a family being able to heat their home and put food on the table and complete financial devastation.  Unfortunately the UK Government does not have a great track record on listening when it comes to Welfare Reform"

Joint response from Centre for Mental Health, Hafal, Mind, Rethink, The Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Scottish Association for Mental Health: "We do not support the objective of an overall reduction target for the basis of DLA reform – the reform should be based on supporting disabled people to lead fulfilling lives and not primarily concerned with reducing costs."

"We are concerned about the focus on those with ‘greatest need’ – this may be counterproductive and significantly disadvantage those eligible to lower rates of benefit, who may still have high disability costs."

Citizens Advice: "A benefits cap is just one of a number of welfare reforms that will have a disproportionate impact on some of the most vulnerable families, including children, breadwinners who have lost their job, and others forced to give up work because of illness The government is right to try and simplify a benefits system which is far too complex, but unless some safeguards are put in place the combined impact of these sweeping welfare reforms and huge cuts will be catastrophic for a lot of families already stretched to the limit."

In addition, along with the Papworth Trust, these organisations have called for a pause to the Bill because their concerns are so severe:

Papworth Trust
Action on Hearing Loss
Brandon Trust
Campaign for a Fair Society
Disability Rights UK
Disability Wales
Leonard Cheshire Disability
MS Society
The National Autistic Society
Rethink Mental Illness
Three Cs
United Response
The Westminster Society

Breast Cancer Care "Breast Cancer Care, along with other cancer charities, met with Maria Miller MP, Minister for Disabled People and DWP officials in July, to discuss the changes we wanted to make to the Welfare Reform Bill for the benefit of cancer patients. We provided case studies of people with breast cancer to the Minister’s office to demonstrate the possible negative impact of the changes if they go ahead."

MS Society "The MS Society, along with other major charities, have today urged the Government to pause the Welfare Reform Bill and carefully consider the future of Disability Living Allowance

Sense "Sense is deeply concerned the Government’s decision to get rid of the automatic entitlement to DLA mobility component for deafblind people will leave many out in the cold and the needless bureaucracywill create confusion and cost the tax payer more. The Government’s short sighted focus on disabled people with solely higher needs means preventative support will be slashed. This financially irrational approach is not sustainable and will cut many deafblind people off from participating in society"

And as for your press office being open 24/7, maybe you need to tell your fellow MPs to check with them before talking to the media. Your own colleagues are using inaccurate statistics and wrong information - Ian Duncan Smith linking DLA with in-work benefits, when it isn't. Repeated use of the "30% growth in DLA" figure, which is inappropriate as it includes children and older adults - when PIP will only apply to working age people, so relevant growth is only about 14% when demographics are accounted for. Whenever a minister talks about fraud they use the 5 Billion punds figure - but that is fraud AND ERROR - Approx £1 Billion is claimed fraudulently and £4 Billion lost through DWP error! Add to that the £17 Billion UNDERCLAIMED, and the fraud figure pales into near insignificance. However I've not heard Ian Duncan Smith mention the huge amount underclaimed.

I look forward to your respone

Yours sincerely


1 comment:

Jane said...

Excellent letter, not sure you'll get a very frank reply!!