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Policy E-Bulletin

We send out a regular e-bulletin covering policy developments around disability, employment and independent living. Our latest edition came out on 17.04.14

Information Breakthrough: Issue 75

A printable version of this bulletin can be found at: Issue 75 E-Bulletin

Our older e-bulletins are at:

http://www.breakthrough-uk.co.uk/OurServices/policy/archive

Please let us know if any of the items mentioned in this bulletin are not accessible to you – we will try to source them in an alternative format. Contributions are always welcome. The views of external organisations or commentators mentioned in this bulletin are not necessarily those of Breakthrough UK.

01: Closure Of The Independent Living Fund

Since the last bulletin, Mike Penning - the Minister of State for Disabled People – announced that the Independent Living Fund (ILF) will close at the end of June next year. This follows a high profile court of appeal judgement in 2013 which found that the previously planned closure was unlawful under the terms of the Equality Act's Public Sector Equality Duty. The appeal judges said that the government did not have enough documentary evidence on the "potentially very grave impact" of the closure on disabled people who use the fund.

Mike Penning stated that he had since considered all of the evidence and that a new equality analysis has been done. In his Ministerial Statement, he acknowledged the ‘concern’ of ILF users about the impact of the closure on their independence and participation in society. But then he goes on to say:

“I do not believe that continuing a separate system of support, operating through a discretionary trust and outside the statutory mainstream adult social care system, is the right approach. The key features that have contributed to the Independent Living Fund’s success, in particular, the choice and control it has given disabled people over how their care and support is managed, are now provided, or are very soon to be provided, within the mainstream system. To continue with the present arrangements, which benefit a relatively small proportion of disabled people, would therefore fail to take account of the significant developments in adult social care and the changes which have been made in the past 20 years, in the way disabled people are supported to live independent lives.”

The statement continues by saying that the ILF will close on 30 June 2015 and that from then local authorities will take responsibility for meeting the support requirements of former ILF users.

The full text of his statement is at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/statement-on-the-future-of-the-independent-living-fund

The government’s equality analysis on the closure of the ILF is at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/closure-of-the-independent-living-fund-equality-analysis

This decision has been met with dismay by disabled people and their organisations. For example, Liz Carr - a disabled comedian, actor and ILF user - was quoted by Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) as saying:

“The closure of the Independent Living Fund will inevitably lead to the erosion of independence, inclusion and freedom for disabled people who have high levels of need. I am one of the 18,000 people in the UK who receive support from the ILF and it is this funding to pay people to do the things I physically can’t do which enables me to get up in the morning, work and have the same kinds of opportunities as everyone else. I don’t think I’m being overdramatic when I say that today’s news is devastating to those of us whose lives and existence owes a great deal to the Independent Living Fund. How can already strapped for cash Local authorities take up the slack when the Fund closes in the summer of 2015? How many of us are going to lose our independence as residential care provides a more cost effective option? A future without the ILF is terrifying.”

DPAC's statement on the closure is at:

http://dpac.uk.net/2014/03/dpac-statement-on-government-announcement-on-closure-of-the-independent-living-fund/

DPAC have since undertaken an analysis of the government’s Equality Impact Assessment on the decision to close the fund, and found it wanting. One of their key points is that there is no evaluation of the impact of closing the ILF once the government’s transition funding ends in 2016:

“Perhaps most importantly in reaching their decision and carrying out this equality analysis the government have only looked at the immediate transition period when one years non-ring fenced funding only will be devolved to local councils and not to the longer term impact of closure of the fund when there will be no additional devolved funding available to local authorities.”

http://dpac.uk.net/2014/03/second-closure-of-independent-living-fund-and-our-analysis-of-the-equality-analysis-by-dwp/#sthash.TkV8ktuk.wqnnBQqm.dpbs

The Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People has been campaigning strongly against the closure of the ILF and described the news as "appalling":

http://gmcdp.com/pages

And Jane Campbell has written here for the Guardian about the impact of the closure of the ILF, also looking at the wider implications for disabled people - “The ILF was a beacon of good practice that allowed us to live as active members of society. Its passing will leave us in the shadows.”:

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/31/independent-living-fund-disabled?CMP=twt_gu

Three of the disabled ILF users who brought the original case have vowed to continue their fight. The Disability News Service has reported that they have asked the DWP to withdraw the decision. If they do not, the group may ask for another judicial review.

http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2014/04/campaigners-launch-new-legal-bid-to-halt-independent-living-fund-closure/

02: Support the European Independent Living Day on 5 May

The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is calling on disabled people’s organisations across Europe to organise events, lobbies and protests around Monday 5 May 2014 “to oppose the deep and ongoing cuts affecting disability services and benefits.”

A group of ILF users and allies have released a statement urging disabled people’s organisations to take part in this. Their statement is on the DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts) website at:

http://dpac.uk.net/2014/04/support-the-european-independent-living-day-in-may-2014/

We will be holding an event in support of the day for members of our Voice Network during that week. Please see information below in the events section.

03: Welfare Reform

Beyond the Barriers

This new report from the Spartacus network looks in detail at Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and at the Work Programme.

Drawing on a wide range of national and international evidence - as well as the experiences of over 1,200 sick and disabled people - it goes on to provide a range of recommendations for a new system of support. These include that "the mandation of ESA claimants to the Work Programme in its current structure is ended immediately. We recommend that clients should control their own back to work support budgets as they are best placed to assess what help they need, what barriers they face and what interventions might be necessary to return to work.":
http://www.spartacusnetwork.org.uk/index.php/esa

Citizens Advice Says Support For Disabled People Is "Broken"

In the wake of the news that the government has terminated its contract with Atos to deliver Work Capability Assessments 12 months early, Citizens Advice has made a statement saying that the support system for sick and disabled people needs "root and Branch reform".

Their Chief Executive, Gillian Guy, said:

"This is a failing system, which ministers need to fix. Government now has the chance to ensure that the new contracts mean every decision is based on medical evidence and that providers cannot get away with poor performance. Whoever replaces Atos must be fined if they fail to deliver accurate assessments. These changes would help reduce the £60 million wasted on appeals and give a better deal for sick and disabled people and other tax payers."

http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/index/pressoffice/press_index/press_office-20140327.htm

Disabled People Are The Experts About Who Is Able To Work

This is the title of a recent article by Professor Alan Roulstone, written just after the announcement about Atos withdrawing early from its contract to carry out Work Capability Assessments. In it, he discusses the rationale behind the current, flawed system of assessments and their lack of acknowledgement of the real labour market. He calls for proper involvement of disabled people in the design of a replacement system:

"A government panel – including disabled people – should be created to decide on a new “fit for work?” assessment scheme. The scheme should account for level of disability, support available, and labour market and workplace realities.

When it comes to judging whether someone is capable of working, disabled people are the real experts; let’s start listening to them."

http://theconversation.com/disabled-people-are-the-experts-about-who-is-able-to-work-24926

Suggestions for Improving the Work Capability Assessment

Members of the Scottish Parliament have put forward 5 suggestions to make the Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance more "effective and humane". These are:

Those on Employment Support Allowance (ESA) with long-term conditions should not be subject to re-assessments.

ESA should only be undertaken by health care professionals who have the knowledge and experience to understand and recognise the individual’s condition.

Changes should be made to WCA criteria to better recognise fluctuating conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis and hidden symptoms like fatigue and pain.

People applying for ESA should be treated with dignity and respect.

DWP communication should be written in plain English and make it clear what the impact of the decisions are.

For more on this, see:

http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/newsandmediacentre/74615.aspx#sthash.9Q6x4Vj6.dpuf

Benefit Delays are Unacceptable

The Chair of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, Dame Anne Begg, has said that 6 month delays for people waiting for a decision on their claims for the new Personal Independence Payment are "completely unacceptable."

“Many disabled or sick people face waits of 6 months or more for a decision on their PIP eligibility. Even those with terminal illnesses are having to wait far longer than was anticipated. This not only leaves people facing financial difficulties whilst they await a decision, but causes severe stress and uncertainty. It is completely unacceptable.

It is vital that all disabled people, but especially the terminally ill, experience as little delay and stress as possible in making a claim. Basic failures – from appointments being cancelled without notice to unsatisfactory responses to queries about claims – are happening too often. Claimants, and their MPs, have often been unable to get any information about when a decision will finally be made."

Their report calls for urgent action, including that:

  • Penalty clauses in the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) contracts with the assessment providers, Atos Healthcare and Capita Business Services, be invoked where necessary.
  • DWP clear the existing backlog of PIP claims before reassessment of existing DLA claimants is extended.
  • All necessary resources be devoted to meeting a 7 day target for processing PIP claims from terminally ill people.

The full report can be accessed at:

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news/dwp-monitoring-report/

and a BBC article on it at:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-26615853

"Bedroom Tax" And Other Housing Support Changes Causing Distress To Disabled People

Another report on an Inquiry by the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee says that changes to housing support - including the Social Sector Size Criteria (SSSC) (often described as the “Bedroom Tax”) and the Benefits Cap - are causing "distress" and "severe financial hardship" to disabled people. The Chair of the committee, Dame Anne Begg MP, said:

"The Government has reformed the housing cost support system with the aim of reducing benefit expenditure and incentivising people to enter work. But vulnerable groups, who were not the intended targets of the reforms and are not able to respond by moving house or finding a job, are suffering as a result.

The Government’s reforms are causing severe financial hardship and distress to vulnerable groups, including disabled people. Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), which local authorities can award to people facing hardship in paying their rent, are not a solution for many claimants. They are temporary, not permanent, and whether or not a claimant is awarded DHP is heavily dependent on where they live because different local authorities apply different eligibility rules.

Using housing stock more efficiently and reducing overcrowding are understandable goals. But 60-70% of households in England affected by the SSSC contain somebody with a disability and many of these people will not be able to move home easily due to their disability. So they have to remain in their homes with no option but to have their Housing Benefit reduced."

The committee recommends that anyone who has had their accommodation "significantly adapted" should be exempt from the bedroom tax, as should anyone who gets a higher rate of Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

Their report is at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmselect/cmworpen/720/720.pdf

Work Underway on Cumulative Impact Assessment?

The Disability News Service has reported that the Treasury, Department for Work and Pensions and other government departments are assisting the Equality and Human Rights Commission on a piece of work assessing the impact of “spending decisions” on different groups in society:

http://disabilitynewsservice.com/2014/04/dwp-admits-it-is-helping-watchdog-with-cumulative-impact-project/

04: Social Care – Issues and Research

Feedback From Disabled People And Family Carers On Draft National Eligibility Criteria For Adult Social Care

Last year, the government published a discussion paper outlining the detail of its plans in the Care Bill to set a national criteria to decide who is eligible for support from local authority adult social care departments. This proposed that the national threshold for getting social care support would be set at "substantial" level,

A report was released recently by the Care and Support Alliance. Scope, one of its members, led an investigation involving 423 family carers and disabled people in receipt of social care on the proposed changes. The research was carried out between 23rd October 2013 and 20th December 2013. Their major concern is that communication and social interaction requirements are not included in the regulations.

  • Definitions of personal care and household activities are broadly accurate, however key activities which impact on an adult’s mental well-being, such as communication and social interaction, are missing.
  • Mobility around the home is not accurately reflected in the regulations and should be made clearer.
  • Regulations should make reference to completing a task reliably, safely and consistently. This should also be taken into account in assessments.
  • Explicit reference to fluctuating needs in the regulations is positive. However, the language used is too vague – clear guidance for assessors is required.
  • The eligibility criteria need to consider how they can support the policy intention to intervene earlier, in order to prevent, reduce or delay needs from developing.
  • Social care user feedback on their experience of the assessment process is generally good. However local authorities need to provide better information about sources of alternative support when a person’s needs are deemed ineligible.
  • There is widespread concern about how the regulations will be interpreted, highlighting the need for clear guidance and training for assessors.

A press release on the research is here:

http://careandsupportalliance.com/2014/03/26/csa-press-release-people-who-cant-move-around-their-home-wont-get-support-under-care-plans-26-march-2014/

The full report is at:

http://careandsupportalliance.files.wordpress.com/2014/03/scope-report-feedback-from-carers-and-social-care-users.pdf

Overview of Adult Social Care in England

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published a report which assesses the main risks and challenges to adult social care during this period of rapid change. The NAO says that "government does not know if the limits of the capacity of the care system to continue to absorb pressures are being approached. It warns that major changes to the system to improve outcomes and reduce costs will be challenging to achieve."

http://www.nao.org.uk/press-releases/adult-social-care-england-overview/

Personal Budgets Questioned

Peter Beresford, writing in Disability Now, has challenged current policy on personal budgets with reference to recent research evidence:

"...increasingly evidence is highlighting the policy’s failings rather than its potential or actual delivery. Remember, personal budgets were sold as delivering better for less money, with less bureaucracy and more choice and control. But what the most recent independent evidence shows is that The Resource Allocation System is adding additional bureaucracy rather than helpfully predicting cash allocations: those benefitting from personal budgets are disproportionately people receiving direct payments, who are doing so because they are getting proportionately more money and they tend to be the more confident, supported and assertive people."

Http://Disabilitynow.Org.Uk/Article/Personal-Budgets-Not-What-They-Seem

Big Drop In Social Care Support For Adults With Mental Health Conditions

A research report from mental health charity Mind says that the numbers of adults with mental health conditions receiving adult social care support has dropped by at least 21% since 2005. However, when other factors have been taken into account, the percentage drop could be as high as 48%

For an analysis of this research, see:

http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2014/03/12/thousands-people-mental-health-needs-denied-social-care-due-cuts/#.UyA4EPl_v6U?cmpid=NLC|SCSC|SCNEW-2014-0312

05: Resources

Into Apprenticeships

Disability Rights UK has produced a guide for disabled people on apprenticeships. It was written ‘by and for’ disabled people and includes individual's stories of the experience of doing an apprenticeship, as well as practical tips and information on how to secure the opportunity:

http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/sites/default/files/pdf/IntoApprenticeships.pdf

Easy Read Version Of The Budget

An easy read version of last month's Budget is available to download at the link below. This has been put together by United Response:

http://www.unitedresponse.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Easy-News-budget-report.pdf

06: Human Rights

"Deadline Looms Over 'Shadow' Report"

This piece from the Disability News Service looks at the urgent calls for Disabled People's Organisations to come together to produce a single shadow submission to the United Nations committee on the Rights of Disabled People before the June deadline. The committee are collecting evidence on how the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People is being implemented in the UK:

http://www.thefedonline.org.uk/disability-in-the-news/deadline-looms-over-shadow-report

07: Consultations

DWP Reviewing their Alternative Format Provision

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) have started a review of the way in which they provide alternative formats.

“You are invited to comment on DWP’s current review of the provision of the guidance and procedures for identifying customer needs and providing DWP information and letters in alternative formats. Specifically the review is:

looking at all aspects of DWP internal guidance and procedures which enable it to identify customers who require information in alternative format.

looking at the processes and procedures that enable DWP to put these adjustments in place.

The closing date for responses is the 30th April 2014.”

More background is on the Disability Rights UK website at:

http://www.disabilityrightsuk.org/news/2014/march/dwp-alternative-formats-information-review

08: Vacancy for Office and Communications Administrator: MDPAG

We have been asked to circulate information on the following vacancy:

Location: Manchester Disabled People’s Access Group, Manchester M15 5DD

Terms: Initially until 30th April 2015

Salary: £17,333 - £19,317 pro rata (28 hours per week flexible)

Main Purpose of job:

To take responsibility for management of the office, communications including social networking, and supporting our projects and finance. Other duties will include servicing meetings & events and supporting the development of access audits.

Key skills and experience required:

  • Awareness of the Social Model of Disability
  • Ability to use Microsoft Office software
  • Good communication skills
  • Ability to organise a personal workload and work independently
  • Experience of maintaining administrative and information systems
  • Experience of using social media to involve people in activities

This vacancy is open to disabled people only

For more details and to apply please visit www.mdpag.org.uk. For any other enquiries please contact MDPAG on 0161 455 0219 or at admin@mdpag.org.uk. Closing Date: 5pm Monday 28th April 2014

09: Events

Voice Network Event

Wednesday 7 May 2014 12.30pm to 3.30pm

Venue: Abraham Moss Centre, Cheetham Hill,

Manchester M8 5UF

In support of European Independent Living Day 2014, Breakthrough UK is holding a workshop for disabled people living in Greater Manchester.

• Get involved with Breakthrough UK’s Voice Network!

• Discuss the big issues in your life, including cuts to services and benefits - and what can be done.

• Meet others and share experiences.

• Get information and find out about new initiatives such as Personal Health Budgets.

Please book by Friday 25 April as space is limited. Travel expenses from within Greater Manchester will be provided on request.

Contact Elaine Astley on 0161 234 3950 or email: e.astley@breakthrough-uk.co.uk

Tell us about your access requirements when you get in touch e.g. information in Braille, a British Sign Language interpreter, personal assistance etc.

Manchester University Disabled Staff Network Conference

We have been asked to circulate information about the following conference:

"What are we hiding?" The first National Conference of the UK's Disabled Workforce

Friday 6th June 2014, University of Manchester

For more information, see:

https://www.meeting.co.uk/confercare/DSNConference2014/index.html

10: Contact Us

Telephone: 0161 234 3950

E-mail: e.astley@breakthrough-uk.co.uk

Breakthrough UK Ltd.

The Kevin Hyett Suite

Abraham Moss Centre, Crescent Road, Crumpsall, Manchester M8 5UF

Follow us on Twitter:

https://twitter.com/#!/BreakthrouUKLtd

Breakthrough’s YouTube account can be found at:

www.youtube.com/user/BreakthroughUKLtd

For more information, or to sign up to receive future editions, please contact our Policy and Research Assistant