I have been asked to share the following with all DPAC members and all interested activists:
Where now for the campaign?
Zoom Meeting: Monday 22nd June 2020 6.30-8.30pm
I have been asked to share the following with all DPAC members and all interested activists:
Where now for the campaign?
Zoom Meeting: Monday 22nd June 2020 6.30-8.30pm
ROFA have at last received a response to our letter to Justin Tomlinson. Unfortunately, he failed to address the majority of their concerns and provides no indication that the culture in the Disability Unit is going to be any different to that of the Office for Disability Issues (ODI) when it was in the DWP. Here is a link to their second letter after they waited a month for a response to their original.
Here is the response from Justin Tomlinson in full:
Thank you for your email of 20 February. I am grateful that you took the time to share your thoughts on the National Strategy for Disabled People. I am sure you will appreciate that we are currently experiencing an unprecedented situation with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic and so I am sorry for not being able to respond sooner.
The Government is strongly committed to ensuring that disabled people have a central voice in the process of determining the National Strategy for Disabled People. You are correct in thinking that we have started some initial scoping with several disability charities and via our Regional Stakeholder Networks. We are keen to include the widest possible range of disabled people’s organisations in this process as we progress and I intend to host quarterly round table discussions, with representatives from these organisations, which would obviously include yourselves.
We had thought to start these as a series of face-to-face meetings towards the end of March. However, current health concerns make this impossible at present. We are progressing our plans to develop a digital engagement programme so that we can undertake some engagement during the current crisis. I do recognise that many disabled people are not able to access digital means of communication and I can assure you this is only a temporary approach and, once we can meet face-to-face again, we will be undertaking extensive regional and local engagement.
As the current pandemic is the priority for the Government, we will need to review our plans for the development of the National Strategy for Disabled People. We want to ensure that we have enough time to get this right and undertake a full and appropriate programme of stakeholder engagement.
My officials will contact you as soon as possible with respect to engagement on the National Strategy so we can agree how you and your organisations are part of extensive plans to engage with as many disabled people and disabled people’s organisations as possible.
Finally, thank you for your comprehensive list of concerns. My officials are working across Government to ensure that the needs of disabled people are centred in our response to COVID-19. These are rapidly developing circumstances but I can assure you that, as both the Prime Minister and Chancellor have made clear, the Government will do whatever it takes to support people affected by COVID-19. We will ensure that Government communications and messages about the coronavirus are available in many accessible formats.
I look forward to discussing the specific queries you raise for inclusion in the National Strategy for Disabled People when we are able to meet in person.
Justin Tomlinson MP
Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work
The ROFA Steering Group will be following up and arranging a meeting after our conference. We will continue to keep you informed if any progress is made.
Yesterday I received the following email from Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, outlining the Disabled People’s Manifesto which has been written in consultation with Disabled People’s Organisations and Disabled people across the UK. It is well worth reading and taking action on to ensure that the next UK Government take Disabled people and their wishes into consideration when introducing new policies.
Inclusion London is a member of Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, which today released its Disabled People’s Manifesto, and demands for the first 100 days of the new government!
This manifesto has been written in consultation with Disabled People’s Organisations and Disabled people across the UK, and is based on the social model of disability and the cultural model of deafness. Now we need your help to campaign on it!
We believe it is more important than ever that the political parties truly commit to co-producing its policies with Disabled people and our organisations, and uphold the principle of ‘nothing about us without us’.
We will be sharing this manifesto with political parties and candidates, but we need your help to support our campaign. Here is what you can do:
We have lots of information and ideas on what DDPOs can do on elections and voting, including legal responsibilities under Charity Law and the Lobbying Act, which can be accessed here: Election Resources and Guides.
The Labour party is on a “collision course” with the equality and human rights watchdog and the United Nations because of its failure to accept the need for a legal right to independent living, according to a national network of disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).
The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance (ROFA) has called on Labour to join the TUC in backing its proposals for a new National Independent Living Support Service (NILSS) that would give disabled people crucial new rights to free support.
A meeting of ROFA members and supporters from across England agreed on Friday on their priorities for winning support for NILSS.
Among those priorities was to push Labour to include the plans in its next general election manifesto.
There was also “contempt” at the meeting for the Conservative-led government’s continuing failure to publish its own much-delayed plans for solving the adult social care funding crisis.
On Friday, the Trades Union Congress passed a motion – proposed by Sean McGovern, co-chair of TUC’s disabled workers’ committee – that calls on the next Labour government to establish a NILSS.
The motion had been passed by TUC’s annual Disabled Workers’ Conference in May.
Such a service, running alongside the NHS, would provide a universal right to independent living, with support provided free at the point of need, funded by general taxation, managed by central government, and delivered locally in co-production with disabled people.
Similar motions have been passed by local Labour branches, with the hope that the proposals will be debated on the floor of the party’s annual conference in Brighton from 21 September.
And the day after Friday’s meeting, ROFA member Andrew Day passed Jeremy Corbyn a letter, when the Labour leader visited him during a visit to Norwich, in which he asked him to meet ROFA to discuss the NILSS proposals.
Mark Harrison, a ROFA member who helped draw up the strategy and took part in Friday’s meeting, said the disabled people’s movement was united behind NILSS.
He said the idea could be “transformational” if it was adopted by Labour as part of its general election manifesto.
But he said he did not believe that the party’s shadow social care minister, Barbara Keeley, had engaged with representative DPOs on social care and the right to independent living, as the party should have been doing because of principles laid out in article four of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Labour disputed this and insisted that Keeley had not refused to meet with RoFA, and “regularly consults with a range of stakeholders, including people with lived experience, on social care policy development”.
Harrison said Labour’s current policies on social care were “pathetic” and “neither transformational nor socialist”.
He said Labour was currently on a “collision course” with the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which has called for the UK to introduce a legal right to independent living, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has also backed such a move.
Although Labour’s 2017 general election manifesto (PDF) promised to sign the UN convention into UK law, the party has since shied away from promising a legal right to independent living, which is offered by article 19 of the treaty.
Harrison said ROFA would hold the Labour party’s “feet to the fire” over independent living.
He said: “This could be a flagship commitment of a new Labour government coming to power.”
He also said there was “complete contempt” for the government at Friday’s meeting over its failure to publish its plans for social care, and for its own failure to engage with representative organisations of disabled people.
He said “momentum was building” behind the NILSS idea, and he added: “That was the good thing about Friday: the momentum is building up and people are really on it, determined that we are not going to let this one go.
“The Labour party should not be waiting. It should be engaging with us now.”
A Labour party spokesperson said: “The proposals fall across a range of government policy areas, from work and pensions and health and social care to justice.
“They will be considered carefully as part of Labour’s policy development process.”
She added: “Labour is committed to addressing the crisis in social care.
“Our plans for a National Care Service will provide dignity in older age, and independence and support for people with disabilities.
“Our plans will ensure that social care receives the funding it needs, at a time when Tory austerity has created the national crisis in social care.”
The Department of Health and Social Care had failed to comment by noon today (Thursday).
Following the positive news from the Welsh Government in providing an independent reassessment for WILG recipients should they be unhappy with the reassessment from local authorities, comes more uncertainty.
I had been looking forward to spending the rest of my life without having to worry about the ability to live my life independently. However, the following article by John Pring of Disability News Service, underlines the uncertainty that disabled people with high support needs face, due to fears that the buffoons in Westminster will fail to provide the vital grant that former ILF recipients need.
I would like to ask those who have worked hard to protect recipients of the Welsh Independent Living Grant, if we will still be protected if the grant from Westminster fails to be continued?
Just when I thought I could relax…
The government has failed to ease fears that it plans to scrap a vital grant that has been supporting former users of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) for more than three years.
The four-year Former ILF Recipient Grant was agreed in February 2016, with the government agreeing to provide £675 million over four years to local authorities in England.
The announcement of the grant was a significant victory for disabled activists, whose direct action protests had ensured that the plight of former ILF recipients remained a high-profile issue after the fund’s closure on 30 June 2015.
The recipient grant was not ring-fenced, so councils were not forced to spend it supporting former ILF-users, but it has allowed thousands of disabled people with high support needs to continue to live independently since ILF’s closure.
But disabled activists have now pointed out that the four years of funding is due to end next April, and there has been no mention by ministers of any extension to the grant.
And when Disability News Service contacted the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government this week, it refused to say if an extension of the funding was being considered.
Instead, a spokesperson said: “The upcoming [cross-government] spending review will be our opportunity to look at funding for local authorities in the round and work is well underway to secure the resources and flexibilities councils need to deliver services for communities across the country.”
John Kelly, a former ILF-recipient and prominent campaigner, who lives in south-west London, said that any decision to end the grant would be “another nail in the coffin”.
He said: “I don’t want to be alarmist, but things are so awful at the moment that we could be saying goodbye to our rights to independent living, where the limited options on offer could be going back to living in care homes.
“Our predictions when ILF closed have all come true. We said it would be a postcode lottery. It is.
“We predicted the closure would be a drip, drip erosion of our ability and rights to an independent full life.
“We said that people’s packages may be cut. Some disabled people’s packages have been cut.
“We said local authorities wouldn’t be able to cope with applying the principles of independent living to our lives, because all they would be worried about was very basic care needs, because their budgets have been cut. That’s happening.
“We’re in a crisis. That’s not our words, that’s the directors of social services saying it.
“We knew local authorities wouldn’t be able to cope with the freedoms that ILF did give. Those freedoms are being threatened more and more.
“And we knew that ILF was working and those freedoms should have been given to more disabled people, not less.”
He added: “In the spending review, they must ensure that that money continues, but critically our rights to independent living must also be reconsidered, protected and actually furthered.
“My life is more than a one-hour call to make sure I am fed and watered.”
Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said the government had been “shamed” into providing the transition grant through the efforts of disabled activists.
One example was DPAC launching a direct action protest in the lobby of the House of Commons, days before ILF was due to close, with activists nearly succeeding in breaking into the main Commons chamber during prime minister’s questions.
But she said the transition funding provided by the government, including the four-year extension agreed in 2016, was never ring-fenced.
Clifford said: “Even before the ILF closed some local authorities started making dramatic cuts.
“It has been a complete postcode lottery from area to area.
“If the grant is ending, it will be a terrible blow to former ILF recipients whose local authorities have been protecting their support packages.
“We would be likely to see an even greater level of re-institutionalisation, neglect, denial of opportunity and dehumanisation of people with high support needs living in the community and a greater pressure to go into segregated institutions against their wishes.”
She called on disabled people and allies to support the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance’s Independent Living for the Future campaign, which calls for a new national independent living service that would eliminate the postcode lottery in support, and finally make the right to independent living a reality.
ILF was originally funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and when it closed on 30 June 2015 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 until April 2016.
It then agreed to extend that funding to English councils for another four years.
There were separate arrangements in Scotland and Wales.
Scotland set up its own Scottish Independent Living Fund on 1 July 2015, after the closure of the UK-wide ILF.
In Wales, a temporary replacement for ILF, the Welsh Independent Living Grant (WILG) scheme, ran from July 2015 but was due to close this spring and be replaced by a system of council-funded support.
But the closure was paused, after campaigning by disabled activists and allies, to allow all WILG recipients to request an independent reassessment of their new council support packages, with the Welsh government promising to fund the reassessments and any extra support they might need as a result.
The Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, a network of disabled people and our organisations in England, is asking for support for a bold new vision for independent living* for the future. (* The phrase ‘independent living’ is not about disabled people doing things on our own, it means having choice and control over our own lives, being included in the community and having the same chances to take part as other people.)
The social care and mental health systems are currently in crisis and as a result disabled people’s rights to an adequate standard of living, to dignity and inclusion and to equal participation in society are being taken backwards.
In its present state, the system is not fit to respond to current needs, let alone predicted greater needs in the future. Disabled people’s experiences of support are subject to a post code lottery and differ considerably depending upon impairment.
Disabled people and our organisations are calling for a better system guaranteeing consistent levels of adequate support. This will not only benefit us and our families but will strengthen wider society, save costs in other areas and produce social and economic benefits.
Our vision of a national independent living support system is set out in the position paper “Independent Living for the Future” which you can download above or below for the easy read version.
Please sign up in support using the form at the end of this page and help us reclaim disabled people’s futures by making our vision a reality. [The form is published on the DPAC website and can be found by clicking here]
Sadly, I couldn’t attend Thursday’s meeting at the Houses of Parliament, but Ellen Clifford of DPAC kindly read out the following message on my behalf:
The Welsh Independent Living Grant was given to former ILF recipients as a temporary measure while future arrangements were discussed. In November 2016, the Welsh Government announced they would be scrapping the grant and transferring all funds to local authorities. This could not be allowed to happen and we have campaigned tirelessly and imaginatively to push the Welsh Government into making a u-turn. Independent Social Workers and extra funds have been promised by the Welsh Government to ensure former ILF recipients can remain in their local communities.
Even though the #SaveWILG campaign has been a success in protecting the rights of former ILF recipients, the Welsh Government are not planning to extend these rights to disabled people who missed out on the ILF. Our campaign has produced a positive result for approximately 1,300 of us, but this does not mean we can forget about those who never received the Welsh Independent Living Grant. We do not believe any disabled people with high support needs should be purely at the mercy of cash strapped local authorities.
The tripartite system that the ILF established – between recipient, local authority and independent social worker – should be something that we all receive. I would welcome the opportunity to be part of the ROFA campaign and share the skills and tactics that we have built up during our successful campaign. Please do keep in touch and let me know how the people of Wales can get involved. There may be a different legal system in Wales to contend with, but I believe that any Welsh Political Party would welcome the opportunity to work with the UK Government to protect disabled people with high support needs.
Many thanks for allowing me to be part of your discussion and let us hope that this is the beginning of a new campaign that will result in justice for disabled people and their families.
The following article was taken from the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) website and is certainly something #SaveWILG campaigners will be supporting as we continue to work with the Welsh Government to formulate an independent living scheme.
Disabled People Against Cuts and our allies in the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance are campaigning for a National Independent Living Support Service capable of upholding disabled people’s rights to independent living and building on what was so effective about the Independent Living Fund before it was closed in spite of enormous opposition in June 2015.
Please call on your union branches and CLPs to pass motions supporting the campaign. Thanks to Sean McGovern for the wording of a suggested motion as below. If you would like someone to speak at your branch meeting please send details to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about our vision of a National Independent Living Support Service, download this document: NILS-summary-doc-2
National Independent Living Support Service Motion
There is no doubt that social care is in crisis. A crisis brought about by years of Conservative governments’ ideological austerity policies. Today we have a failing system unable to meet current need; and certainly, unfit to respond to predicted future growth.
Bringing social care under a struggling NHS umbrella is not the answer. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of disabled people with social care packages do not receive healthcare interventions through support packages. No, healthcare and social care serve very different kinds of need.
Therefore, this Conference calls upon a newly elected Labour government to establish a National Independent Living Support Service (NILSS). A Service:
Marrying social care to the NHS further medicalises disability in addition to denying the very things that disabled people are crying for…Independence, Choice and Control – things only deliverable by the establishment of a National Independent Living Support Service.
Word Count 197
Reblogged from the Morning Star: http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-761f-Disabled-people-and-their-concerns-can-no-longer-be-ignored#.WZ9EjD595dg
Thursday 24th Aug 2017
ELLEN CLIFFORD and ANITA BELLOWS report on how disability rights activists brought evidence of the Tories’ savage policies to the United Nations
DEAF and disabled people’s organisations from across Britain have come together this week to give evidence about Westminster’s continuing violations of disabled people’s rights under the Convention on the Rights of Disabled people (UNCRPD), with a delegation that includes representatives from Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and the Reclaiming Our Futures Alliance, as well as Disability Wales, Inclusion Scotland and Disability Action Northern Ireland.
There are two parallel processes. The UNCRPD committee will simultaneously hear about British progress in implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People, as part of a periodic review of all nations that are signed up to the convention, as well as a presentation following up on the initial complaint made by DPAC under the optional protocol of the CRPD, which triggered the first inquiry against a state under this process.
The periodic review is wide-ranging and covers detentions under mental health legislation, employment, education, transport, housing, social care and independent living, specific discrimination against women, black people, intersex people, people with learning difficulties and so on.
On Monday August 21, deaf and disabled people’s organisations from across Britain gave a presentation in front of the committee in a closed session.
We highlighted the gaps in state provisions which undermine the government’s claim that the Westminster government’s public spending on disability and incapacity is higher than all other G7 countries bar Germany.
The issue is complicated by devolution and the different laws and arrangements which exist in the four nations.
What came out of the meeting was that not only has the Westminster government failed to progress CRPD implementation, but that rights hard fought for by disabled people have been dramatically eroded since 2010 by cuts. This has led us to today’s state of crisis where high numbers of people with learning difficulties and autism are trapped in institutions, there has been a rise in disabled children educated in special schools and the destruction of community support is leading to greater marginalisation and isolation of disabled people.
Following the closed session, deaf and disabled people’s organisations will have the chance to arrange meetings with individual committee members on specific matters such as access to justice, before the committee quizzes the Westminster government representatives on August 23-24. These examination sessions will be open to the public and livestreamed.
Also this week, the CRPD committee heard a follow-up presentation on the specific issues which triggered its inquiry in 2015 which found evidence of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights by the Westminster government due to welfare reform.
These violations were closely related to welfare reform and the devastating and disproportionate impact on disabled people. The investigation carried out by the committee was indepth, involving reading thousands of pages of evidence and reports and a visit to Britain where disability committee members spoke to over 200 disabled people and organisations.
However, the government rejected the findings and dismissed the inquiry report as “patronising and offensive,” questioning the competence of the committee members.
The CRPD committee’s report was leaked to the Daily Mail the day before the US election. The response from the government was dismissive and totally ignored the committee’s conclusions.
One specific demand was for the government to undertake a cumulative impact assessment of the cuts, something that it has consistently refused to do.
This week disabled people had the chance to give a presentation on the worsening of the situation since that inquiry took place and the new cuts and measures that have been introduced withouBrit consultation or by bypassing Parliament and scrutiny — including the cut to personal independence payments brought in at the start of the year that will affect 164,000 people, predominantly those who experience psychological distress.
One major concern that disabled people have is around proposals outlined in the government green paper Work, Health and Disability: Improving Lives.
Its purported aim is to reduce the disability employment gap, but key measures it introduces will extend conditionalities and sanctions to more disabled people, ignoring calls from the National Audit Office to follow up on its initial examination of the impact of sanctions on disabled people, which suggests they actually lower chances for disabled people of finding employment.
For the government, the default position is that all disabled people are able to work, or able to do some work, if given the right incentives and motivation to do.
Using the flawed argument that work is the best way out of poverty, when more and more people in work are getting poorer, the government has devised a regime even more coercive than the previous one, for which impairments are something temporary which can be overcome with willpower and the right mindset. This government is a step away from denying the existence of disability.
Reflecting on the long journey, which has taken disability activists to the United Nations, there is some grounds for optimism.
The inquiry and its outcome mean that disabled people and disability issues can no longer be ignored. Their experiences have been validated by the inquiry’s findings, and the CRPD provides a framework for expressing our grievances and holding the government to account that is missing from domestic legislation. The fight is far from being over, but disabled people have become a vocal and powerful force in Britain.