Senior figures in the Labour and Green parties hav

first_imgSenior figures in the Labour and Green parties have pledged to introduce a national, free, needs-led system of support, after a report showed that the Independent Living Fund’s (ILF) closure resulted in “substantial” cuts to disabled people’s care packages.Inclusion London’s report – One Year On: Evaluating The Impact Of The Closure Of The Independent Living Fund – was launched in parliament this week as part of the Rights Not Games week of action planned by Disabled People Against Cuts to coincide with the start of the Rio 2016 Paralympics.The report includes analysis of freedom of information responses received by Inclusion London from each of the capital’s 33 local authorities, which show vast differences in the proportion of former ILF recipients whose packages have been cut after the fund’s closure.In Waltham Forest, 68 per cent of former ILF-users had their support cut, while 58 per cent saw their package reduced in Hounslow, 56 per cent in Newham, 51 per cent in Havering, 42 per cent in Merton and 36 per cent in Lewisham, while in 10 boroughs no former recipients had their packages reduced.In all, about 185 former ILF recipients in London have seen their support cut so far, about one in seven.Brian Hilton, the former ILF recipient who chaired the launch meeting, said closing the fund in June 2015 had “sent a clear message to disabled people and an equally clear message to society that we are a burden and we are an unacceptable expense”.He said the report shows that some disabled people are having their support “slashed in half”, and having night-time care removed.He said: “Unless there is a change in policy or direction, it is going to result in more and more disabled people becoming prisoners in our own home, or forced into residential care.”Among its recommendations, the report calls for a new national, needs-led system, independent of local authorities, to administer independent living support, which is free at the point of delivery and funded by taxation.The report also includes the experiences of some former ILF recipients from outside London.One of them told the report’s researchers: “Apparently all I need is to be clean and fed.“My County Council will only pay for ‘hands on personal care’ which can all be condensed into a couple of hours a day.“I don’t have the right to expect any quality of life or a clean home. I will be kept all clean and shiny but if my home is a cesspit that doesn’t matter.”Jonathan Bartley, the newly-elected co-leader of the Green party, who took on the job-share role because of his own caring responsibilities for his disabled son, told the launch meeting that his party would support “every recommendation in this report”.In an emotional speech, that more than once left him close to tears, he praised the “outstanding” report, which detailed “real lives, real stories, real families”, and said that it was “just not acceptable for a government to do what it is doing”. Bartley, who was making his first official appearance as co-leader, told the meeting: “I see my 14-year-old son and his fight and it scares me.“You’re going to be a prisoner in your own home [and] I fear that’s what’s going to happen to my son.”Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who has consistently spoken out against the ILF closure and other cuts to disabled people’s support, told the meeting that the report was “unchallengeable”.He said that the decision to shut the fund had forced disabled people into residential homes, and that central government was forcing local authorities to cut social care.McDonnell said he supported the report’s recommendations, which would provide the “basis” for a future Labour government’s policy on independent living support.After he was asked to do so by Bartley, McDonnell said he would write to Labour-run councils to ask them to ring-fence the grant that central government was giving councils to replace ILF funding, so that it was spent only on former ILF recipients.He said: “We will do that. We will talk to individual councils about how they can protect the funding here.“We know the pressure they are under. Just as importantly, we want to work with them to expose what central government is doing.”After the meeting, activists took part in a protest that moved down Whitehall, before disabled artists performed songs and poems in front of the gates of Downing Street.One of the performers, John Kelly, a former ILF recipient, said: “We are not asking for anything special. What we want is basic human rights.“The right to live an independent life is something everyone else can have and we want a bit of it back and we are not going away.“We are not going anywhere and independent living will live on.”Kelly called on the government to publish a report that has been compiled by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities into alleged “systematic and grave violations” of the UN disability convention, which he said the government was “sitting on”.The Inclusion London report says there has been a “dramatic postcode lottery” in the support provided to former ILF recipients in London since the fund closed in June 2015, resulting in a “clear step backwards in independent living support” for disabled people.It says the fund’s closure had caused “distress and anxiety” and led to the removal of essential daily support.It adds: “Despite assurances to the contrary in the run up to June 2015, the closure of the ILF has directly resulted in the removal of support from Disabled people with high support needs.”And it says that where packages have been maintained at their previous level, this has only happened because local and national lobbying by disabled people had persuaded the government to promise four years’ of non-ring-fenced grants to local authorities.Only six boroughs told Inclusion London they were ring-fencing the government grant for former ILF recipients, while 18 said they were ring-fencing it to adult social care, and five said they were not ring-fencing it at all.The report concludes: “The postcode lottery of support provision this research reveals is simply not acceptable.“Disabled People’s independence, choice and control should not be dependent on the choices, compromises and dealings of local politicians.”As well as a new, national system of support, the report also calls for an independent living taskforce, to be led by disabled people; the “urgent” introduction of a system to monitor how local authorities are implementing the Care Act; and for the government’s ILF grant to continue to be paid to local authorities (and to be ring-fenced for former ILF recipients) until a national, independent social care system is operational.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.The Scottish government has since set up its own ILF for existing recipients in Scotland, while the Welsh government has set up a ring-fenced, local authority-run grant scheme that will run until at least 31 March 2017.The government announced in February that it would provide another four years of transition funding to local authorities in England in 2016-17 (£177 million), 2017-18 (£171 million), 2018-19 (£166 million) and 2019-20 (£161 million), but that the money would again not be ring-fenced.Picture: Former ILF recipient Nathan Davies, from north Wales, after the meetinglast_img read more

Read more →

The Department for Work and Pensions DWP is usin

first_imgThe Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is using lost appointment letters for face-to-face assessments as an excuse for turning down disabled people’s benefit claims, to help it cut spending on social security, it has been claimed.Concerns have been raised about both the government’s new personal independence payment (PIP) – which helps meet a person’s disability-related costs – and employment and support allowance (ESA), the out-of-work sickness and disability benefit.The concerns were raised with Disability News Service (DNS) after last week’s report detailing how DWP, and its private sector contractors Atos and Capita, were refusing to launch inquiries into widespread allegations of dishonesty by healthcare professionals paid to carry out PIP assessments.One leading activist, Roy Bard (pictured), a long-term recipient of disability living allowance (DLA), described this week how his financial support was suddenly removed because he missed an appointment for a PIP assessment he was never told about.He had been told he needed to apply for the new PIP, which is gradually replacing DLA for working-age claimants.After DWP initially appeared to have mislaid documents he sent as evidence for his claim – which he sent by recorded delivery – he eventually received a phone call from Atos asking why he had missed his face-to-face assessment.He told Atos he had never received a letter telling him to attend an assessment, and made the same reply a few days later when Atos called him again.Bard then received a letter telling him his DLA had been stopped, and that his PIP claim had been cancelled.When he complained, he was told a text message reminder had been sent to his phone, but the mobile number it was sent to does not belong to him.Following an appeal – through DWP’s mandatory reconsideration process – he was told that DWP had overturned the decision to cancel his PIP claim, but would still not reinstate his DLA. He was told to wait for another assessment appointment.This decision meant he lost about £560 a month in DLA and severe disability premium, even though DWP had overturned its original finding that he had no good cause for missing the assessment.Bard, a leading member of the Mental Health Resistance Network, said his mental health had been seriously affected by the way his PIP claim had been dealt with, and he told DWP that this “amounts to maladministration and it has caused me considerable harassment, distress and alarm”.Soon after DNS contacted DWP about his case, Bard was told that his DLA had been reinstated and a new PIP assessment arranged for next week.But his case is not a one-off.Graeme Ellis (pictured), who founded the Lancaster-based social enterprise Here2Support, has told DNS that he received eight cases similar to Bard’s last week, some of them relating to PIP, and some affecting ESA claimants.All eight said they had had their benefits removed for not attending a face-to-face assessment, even though they had not received an appointment letter.In the last month, Ellis has been receiving one or two such cases a week, but last week that “just shot through the roof”.He believes these cases demonstrate a fresh DWP attempt to cut social security spending.Previously, he said, a claimant of disability benefits would be given another assessment if their appointment letter had gone missing.Now, said Ellis, they are finding – like Bard – that their claims are being cancelled.He believes that appointment letters are being sent out, but that DWP is being more “strict” if the letters go missing and claimants fail to turn up to their assessments.He said: “They are just dismissing the fact that people are saying they have not received the letter.“It’s about saving money. They see a way of knocking somebody off benefits.”He also pointed to another case as further evidence of a new, even harsher DWP regime.A woman who had not left her home in five years because of severe agoraphobia was denied a home PIP assessment – after years of claiming DLA – and then had her benefits removed when she failed to turn up to an assessment centre for her appointment.Ellis traces the start of a stricter ESA regime to April this year, and the implementation of controversial cuts of nearly £30 a week to payments made to new ESA claimants placed in the work-related activity group.Because a cancelled claim means someone has to start a new claim – even if they had previously been receiving ESA – DWP can then treat them as new claimants and cut their benefits by nearly £30 a week if they are placed in the WRAG.A DWP spokeswoman said the department was “not aware of multiple examples” of cases like Bard’s.She said: “We’ve made enquiries, and we are not aware of this being a widespread issue.”She said that suggestions that DWP was using such incidents as a way of forcing disabled people on ESA to make new claims and accept lower benefits if placed in the WRAG were “unfounded and not true”.She added: “[Bard] was sent a letter asking him to attend a face-to-face assessment.“Although a text message was sent to the number that we held for [him], further checks show that the assessment provider did not give sufficient notice for the assessment, so they’ve been asked to arrange a new appointment.“As the case had not been dealt with correctly on this occasion, we’ve informed [Bard] that his DLA will be reinstated.“The mobile number that the text message was sent to was a number we had held for some time.“As [Bard] has now stated that this is not his number, it has been removed from our records.”She added: “Every year we send out millions of letters, and fortunately incidents like this are rare.“When an administrative error does occur, we take action to ensure the claimant does not lose out on their benefits, as we have in [Bard’s] case.”last_img read more

Read more →

SAINTS have been supporting St Helens Autism Suppo

first_imgSAINTS have been supporting St Helens Autism Support – a local charity whose aim is to raise awareness of the condition in the town.The SAS held their third annual ball at the club recently and raised more than £6,000 on the night to help purchase iPads and provide support.Saints CEO Mike Rush said: “This is a local charity that is very close to my heart and one I, as well as the club, are delighted to be able to support.“I know personally how Autism can affect families and raising awareness as well as helping people to get support is vital.“The club is more than happy to support such a charity that is doing great work in the borough.”Saints’ game with Wakefield last season was dedicated to the charity which aims to specifically to assist those in the borough who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).The SAS wants to see every child diagnosed in the Town have access to an iPad or similar Tablet Device.Experts are finding that simple, carefully constructed apps are enabling affected children to feel safe and communicate more readily because the software is more predictable and ordered than human interaction.The number of children who are registered in St Helens has steadily increased and many of the people in attendance at the ball either have children or relatives who are affected by this condition.SAS has so far raised more than £30,000 with supporters completing cycling challenges from the battlefields of Belgium to St Helens, Galway to St Helens and most recently Saints (Southampton) to Saints (Northampton) and Saints (St.Helens R.F.C.).Nick Mussel of NS Connections donated two iPads on the night.He said: “St Helens Autism Support is a really great charity doing fantastic work in the St Helens area. I felt a strong connection to this charity as my own son was diagnosed with Autism back in 2011 when he was just three years old.“Having the opportunity to support the work of this charity through my O2 store in Ormskirk and supplying iPads to children with ASD through SAS gives them the technology to be able to communicate more effectively.“The ever growing community of people directly affected by Autism and their families can only benefit from the increase in awareness and the additional levels of emotional support gained by collaborations like this.“The benefits of iPads and similar technologies to help individuals on the spectrum is well documented and I suspect this is the start of many projects of which we can be involved with going forward.”SAS Chairman Tom Jackson (pictured) added: “I have children who have been diagnosed with ASD and have been overwhelmed by the support we have had so far in support of children in our Town who have a condition that most people would not recognise.“The donations so far will go a long way to improving their lives.”last_img read more

Read more →

ST HELENS Autism Support SaS have donated iPads

first_imgST HELENS Autism Support (SaS) have donated iPads to children in the town who suffer from the condition.As part of World Autism Awareness Day, the charity presented the items to Vincent Clarke and Marcus Strong at Sutton Manor Community Primary School.The tablets will benefit the children in their learning and development and the plan is donate more in the next few months.Saints have always been a supporter of SaS and Paul Wellens and CEO Mike Rush, who is patron of the charity, met the boys at the School.SaS sponsored Saints’ clash with Wakefield last season and the club supported its ‘Three Saints’ annual charity bike ride.A group of hardy cyclists covered 280 miles to take in Southampton FC and Northampton RU before finally arriving home four days later at Langtree Park.World Autism Awareness Day (April 2) was also marked at the World of Glass by St. Helens Council who held a special event to highlight what it does in the community.It featured information, advice and examples of the work they do in schools, care services and partners in the voluntary and Community Sector.They then hosted a training event which was designed for professionals and individuals with Autism, as well as parents, carers and volunteers.last_img read more

Read more →