Members with Disabilities

 

 

More campaigners have added their voices to calls for a new national organisation of disabled people that they hope would bring together the “fragmented” disability movement.

The idea is still being widely discussed, even though at least two of the campaigners who had been working on one project, to set up a “disabled people’s union”, withdrew from the scheme after being attacked on social media by other activists.

Dr Sarah Campbell, one of the campaigners who was supporting the project, published a blog this week explaining why she had decided to pull out.

She said she had been called a “traitor” for her previous work on the Spartacus campaign with Sue Marsh, the disabled activist who caused controversy earlier this year by accepting a senior position with the controversial US outsourcing giant Maximus.

Campbell had previously written a blog calling on disabled people to put their differences aside on issues such as social security, social care and inclusion, and unite in a new organisation.


 

Today we launched our disability manifesto: A better future for disabled people. I wanted

to share the foreword, which I have co-written with Rachel Reeves and Kate Green:

The twelve million disabled people in Britain today have a huge contribution to make to

our country, and a right to be treated on equal terms with any other citizen. But too many

feel left behind by our economy and left out of our politics – at worst, stigmatised and

threatened by negative language and a worrying rise in disability hate crime.

Scope's priorities for 2015

Read our report

 

Disabled lady talking to member of the public outside Westminster

 

Ahead of the 2015 general election, Scope is working to improve the lives of disabled people.

Living standards are about more than just money – they are dependent on a good education, employment opportunities, having a supportive network of friends, taking part in family life, enjoying leisure activities and using public services.

Scope is calling on all political parties to take action in a number of areas – including improving employment support for disabled people, ensuring that individuals can access the social care that supports them to live independently and tackling the drivers of extra costs that disabled people face in their everyday lives.

Extra costs

Disabled man buying CDs - linking to information about the extra costs that disabled people face

On average, disabled people spend £550 a month on costs related to their disability. These extra costs undermine financial security and reduce disabled people's ability to build financial resilience and savings. Scope is calling on all political parties to commit to identifying and driving down the root causes of the extra costs disbaled people face by:

  • Protecting the value of extra costs payments
  • Ensuring that disabled people have access to the financial support that enables them to live independently
  • Tackling the drivers of extra costs.

Employment

Man looking at computer screen and smiling - linking to information about barriers to work for disabled people

Disabled people can and want to work but face barriers to entering and staying in employment, with existing back to work support having limited success. Scope is calling for action to halve the disability employment gap and support one million more disabled people into work by:

  • Ensuring that workplaces are flexible and inclusive
  • Using regional growth strategies to boost the disability employment rate
  • Supporting disabled people to stay in work

Independent living

carer pushes lady in wheelchair - linking to information about the importance of social care

Social care provides vital support for disabled people to live independently, which can include the basic support to get up, washed and dressed each morning. To build a truly preventative care system for working age disabled people, all disabled people who need formal social care must be able to access care:

  • Social care is vital in supporting disabled people to live independently for longer
  • Disabled people who need social care support must be eligible to access it
  • There must be a sustainable future funding solution for social care

 

A new user-led report aims to focus blame for the “national scandal” of the work capability assessment (WCA) away from the government contractor Atos Healthcare and towards the “culture of contempt” that lies at the heart of the test.

benefits.Assessing the Assessors is based on the responses of nearly 900 people who replied to aquestionnaire about their experiences of the WCA, which tests eligibility for out-of-work disability 

While still being critical of Atos and its staff, the report reveals how claimants are treated in theassessment process and what impact the WCA has on their lives.

It is the latest in a series of reports that have been researched and written by disabled campaigners, exposing the harsh realities of the coalition’s welfare reforms and their impact on disabled people.


sponsored programme of human rights abuse of disabled people, ill people and carers.”“The scale, severity and persistence of wrongdoing indicate a massive and ongoing State-

 own figures, is only 0.7 per cent.It adds: “The entire process and attitude of officials and the media they brief, make people feel likecriminals. This is particularly damaging for people with mental health issues. Fraud, by the DWP’s 

 
reassessments are “wasteful, damaging and are used punitively”, while the WCA makes healthconditions or impairments worse and even causes deaths.The report concludes that the WCA process is “abusive” and “repetitive” and that mandatory 

 Four-fifths of those who responded said the assessment was “not conducted in a fair and humanemanner”.

 And another said: “I feel this process caused my illness to worsen and last longer. If I was giventhe correct help I believe I would be back at work by now. I’ve been made to feel like a criminal.”

 A third respondent said: “This process was terrifying, humiliating and degrading, I was treatedappallingly, it was made obvious that I was not believed in anything I said and I felt suicidalleaving.”

 afterwards”.Another said the assessor “caused such pain that I was almost totally unable to walk for two days 

 reacted to them which felt humiliating – it was just awful.”through the whole interview. [The assessor] demanded to see my self injury scars and then visibly One said the assessment was the “worst thing I have ever experienced. I had a panic attack 

 The report is filled with comments from disabled people who took part in the survey.

 It says the WCA reports are “woefully inaccurate”, and are influenced by a system “that wants tosave money and meet targets”.

 discriminates against disabled people and appears to promote unprofessional activity on the part ofassessors and to cause hardship and poverty.The report concludes that the assessment is “abusive”, “disrespectful”, “callous and inhumane”,

 Of the 884 respondents to the questionnaire who were assessed through a WCA, 95 per cent saidthe assessment had damaged their health, with nearly a third reporting “severe damage”.

 Thomas, and The Centre for Welfare Reform, which published the report.The four were supported by the comedian, investigative journalist and political activist Mark 

 It has been written by Rick Burgess, Jane Bence and Wayne Blackburn, three disabled people whowere formerly part of the WOW petition campaign and have now – together with lawyer andbenefits expert Nick Dilworth, their co-author - set up the campaigning organisation NewApproach, which is dedicated to scrapping the WCA and developing a replacement.

 It is the latest in a series of reports that have been researched and written by disabledcampaigners, exposing the harsh realities of the coalition’s welfare reforms and their impact ondisabled people.

 While still being critical of Atos and its staff, the report reveals how claimants are treated in theassessment process and what impact the WCA has on their lives.

benefits.Assessing the Assessors is based on the responses of nearly 900 people who replied to aquestionnaire about their experiences of the WCA, which tests eligibility for out-of-work disability 

 
assessment (WCA) away from the government contractor Atos Healthcare and towards the “cultureof contempt” that lies at the heart of the test.A new user-led report aims to focus blame for the “national scandal” of the work capability 

 

newslatestA new report by MPs that calls for a “fundamental redesign” of the much-criticised process used to determine eligibility for out-of-work disability benefits does not go far enough, say disabled campaigners.

The Commons work and pensions select committee says that the flaws in the employment and support allowance (ESA) system are so deeply ingrained that simply “rebranding” it by appointing a new contractor to replace Atos Healthcare – which tests eligibility through the controversial work capability assessment (WCA) – would not be enough.

The report into ESA and the WCA calls for the system to be redesigned by the time the government tenders for new WCA contractors in 2018.

But it stops short of recommending that the WCA should be scrapped and replaced, although it does suggest the government should consider bringing the assessment process back in-house. The committee also calls for a number of short-term improvements.

The report says the ESA process is “too long and complex”, there are too many unnecessary reassessments which are “distressing for the claimant and a waste of public money”, and that the backlog of 700,000 claimants awaiting assessment is “unacceptable”.

Among other criticisms, it says the work-related activity group – for those claimants who are not fit for work, but who have to carry out activity to help them move towards finding a job in the longer term – covers “too wide a spectrum of claimants with very different prognoses and employment support needs”.

The committee says that the ESA process should identify the barriers that claimants face, and the support they need, through a separate assessment.

Among other changes, they say that many of those claimants who will obviously be placed in the support group should not have to undergo a face-to-face assessment.

And they call on the Department for Work and Pensions to improve the way it communicates with claimants, which is often “unclear and confusing”, and to take more responsibility for decisions made within the ESA process.

The latest government figures show there were 2.46 million claimants of ESA – and its predecessor, incapacity benefit – in November 2013, with about 70,000 new claims every month.

Claimants who gave evidence to the committee’s inquiry reported feeling “dehumanised, ignored or questioned inappropriately” by the ESA process.

Dame Anne Begg, the disabled Labour MP who chairs the committee, said that Atos had become a “lightning rod for all the negativity around the ESA process”, even though it was DWP that makes the decision about a claimant’s eligibility for the benefit.

Dame Anne said: “Just putting a new private provider in place will not address the problems with ESA and the WCA on its own.”

Inclusion London welcomed the call for a major redesign of the ESA process, but said it was “disappointed” that the committee had failed to recommend that the “fatally flawed” WCA should be abolished and replaced by a completely new system “designed and co-produced with disabled people”.

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “Inclusion London believes the whole assessment process needs to radically change so that a disabled person’s capacity to work is holistically assessed from a social model of disability that takes into account the barriers that the disabled person is likely to face finding, securing and remaining in employment.”

John McArdle, co-founder of the grassroots campaign group Black Triangle, said he was disappointed that the report failed to address the urgent issue of the safety of the WCA.

Thousands of people with mental distress have been found unfairly fit for work following their WCA, and while many go on to win an appeal against this decision, some are unable to cope with an appeal, or experience a relapse in their health as a result of the process.

Many have had relapses, episodes of self-harm and suicide attempts, and have needed higher levels of medication and even hospitalisation.

McArdle said the failure to act was “just allowing the harm to continue unabated”.

Black Triangle (BT) has been campaigning to force the British Medical Association to tell every GP in the country about two vital regulations that BT believes could save lives, if used more often.

The ESA regulations state that a claimant should not be found fit for work (regulation 29), or placed in the ESA work-related activity group (regulation 35), if such a decision would pose “a substantial risk” to their “mental or physical health”.

But the BMA has refused to contact GPs about the regulations, even though doctors at its annual representative meeting were almost unanimous in voting two years ago for the organisation to “demand” that the WCA should end completely.

McArdle said the committee’s report also showed the consensus between the three main parties that the WCA should not be scrapped.

24 July 2014

Dave Edwards. RAFA&DFSA. BFSA.IOSH

The Tory peer who heads the equality watchdog’s disability committee has faced tough questions over whether the hostile rhetoric of his party’s ministers has helped to fuel hate crime.

Lord [Chris] Holmes, a commissioner with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said he placed more blame for any increase in disability hate crime on the media.

He was speaking at a meeting of the all-party parliamentary disability group, which was discussing progress since the commission’s 2011 report on disability-related harassment.

But he was challenged by the Labour peer Baroness [Rosalie] Wilkins, who said: “There has been a very marked change of attitude towards disabled people under this government and I regret to say you are a [Conservative] peer.

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