Information Breakthrough: Issue 74
A printable version of this bulletin can be found at: Issue 74 E-Bulletin
Our older e-bulletins are at:
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: Thousands Of Disabled People In The North West In Fear Of Further Care Cuts
We have received the following press release from the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP):
"GMCDP has called on the Government to clarify its position regarding the future of the ILF (Independent Living Fund). The continued uncertainty is causing undue distress to the thousands of disabled people and their families throughout Greater Manchester who rely on the ILF.
The Independent Living Fund was established in 1988 to enable disabled people with high support needs to live independently in their own homes rather than being forced into residential care.
In November of last year the Court of Appeal overturned the Governments decision to close the ILF. Although the Government is not appealing the decision, it has failed to put forward any alternative plans or make a formal statement on the future of the fund.
The current cost of ILF is £320 million a year and the average cost of ILF support packages is £346 a week, a tiny proportion of UK government spending. This also compares very favourably to costs in residential care. For example, Winterbourne View (famous in the UK for residents being systematically abused) cost an average of £3,500 per week.
The fund currently supports 873 ILF recipients from Greater Manchester, 2,709 from across the North West and 18,227 nationally. Now, all those disabled people and their families are facing an uncertain future.
In addition to the uncertainty, the fund has been closed to new applicants, social care funding criteria is being tightened and 83% of councils will now only fund care needs defined as substantial or above. Underfunded home care packages are resulting in more disabled people being unwashed, underdressed and underfed. The closure of the ILF will only make this situation worse.
Speaking on this matter GMCDP Chair Anne Rae commented: “Increasing numbers of Local Authorities are introducing a 15 minute rule for home care visits… 15 minutes to get people who need support to get out of bed, use the toilet, washed/bathed, dried, dressed, hair done and have breakfast. 15 minutes.. It cannot be done.” Brian Hilton, who is an ILF recipient and a GMCDP member added: “The only thing standing between me and a nursing home is my care package and now the Government wants to take that funding away and with that my independence”.
Caron Blake (GMCDP Manager)"
02: "Bedroom Tax" Case Fails In Court Of Appeal
5 disabled social housing tenants have lost their appeal against a High Court decision that cuts to their housing benefit for "spare" rooms are lawful.
Responding to the judgement, one of the law firms representing them said: "We are extremely disappointed by this Judgment and we are baffled by the findings of the Court of Appeal.
The Court recognised that our clients and thousands of disabled people across the UK had a need for accommodation not provided for by the new housing benefit rules, however the Court decided that disabled tenants should not have their housing needs met on an equivalent basis to their able bodied counterparts, just because they are disabled.
Instead disabled tenants are being forced to rely on short term and discretionary payments.
We are currently considering whether an appeal to the Supreme Court is possible. Our thoughts go out to the thousands of disabled tenants who continue to be faced with uncertainty, poverty and the risk of eviction.”
The Disability News Service has reported that the five are planning to continue their fight.
The court also ruled against 2 lone parents who argued that the benefits cap is unlawful because of its impact on families like theirs.
For more on this, see:
03: Welfare Reform
Debate on Cumulative Impact of Welfare Reform in House of Commons
An historic but poorly attended debate took place last Thursday in parliament on the impact of welfare reform. The call for the government to carry out a cumulative impact assessment on how their reforms - taken together - have affected disabled people and people with health conditions was passed by those in attendance. We are waiting now to find out what will happen next.
For a full commentary on the debate as it happened, see:
And there is a write up here by the Disability News Service:
A transcript is now available at:
The debate was scheduled by the Backbench Business Committee following representations from John McDonnell and Grahame M. Morris. It followed the very well supported WOW campaign e-petition, calling for an independent assessment of the impact of changes in the welfare system on “sick and disabled people” across a broad range of areas including employment support, day services, the under occupancy penalty, benefits uprating, benefit cap, Work Capability Assessment, admissions to residential institutions, impending changes to Universal Credit, sanctions and social care.
The report immediately below was drawn up to support this debate:
Counting the Cuts
This is from Simon Duffy, Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform and draws on up to date government statistics. Findings include:
- There have been large cuts in public spending, and these cuts have targeted on people who are already disadvantaged.
- People on low incomes face cuts twice as large as average
- Disabled people on low incomes face cuts four times larger than average
- People who need help form social services face cuts six times greater than the average
For more background, and the report, see:
Atos want to back out of Work Capability Assessment contracts
Atos Healthcare are negotiating with the Department for Work and Pensions to exit their £500 Million contract for the Work Capability Assessments early following alleged death threats. For the text of the original breaking news article in the Financial Times (which has since been confirmed by Atos), see:
This came shortly after the Guardian revealed that the DWP themselves were looking for alternative providers to deliver the assessments.
National Call for Evidence: Impact of Welfare Reforms
The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) are asking voluntary groups in England to submit detailed evidence to them on the impact that welfare reform is having upon the people they work with. "Voluntary organisations play a vital role in supporting people and communities and have first-hand knowledge of what impacts the welfare reforms are having. And yet, the sector has not yet spoken with one voice about the combined effects of the reforms."
They specifically want to find out:
- How the welfare reforms have affected your beneficiaries?
- What changes have you made to your services as a direct result of the reforms and why?
- What factors have affected your capacity to respond to changing demands?
The deadline is the 31 March. Evidence can be submitted directly into the web page below. http://www.ncvo.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=554
Charities warn about Welfare Cap
A group of charities, including Child Poverty Action Group, Mind, NCVO and Oxfam have written to the government ahead of the Budget to warn that the overall cap on welfare spending could lead to inappropriate short term decision making:
Work and Pensions Select Committee to investigate Employment and Support Allowance and the Work Capability Assessment
The parliamentary Work and Pensions Committee have started an inquiry into Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) which people have to go through when claiming the benefit.
“In light of recent developments in this area, including the publication of a number of reviews of the WCA, expressions of concern from DWP regarding Atos’s performance in delivering the WCA, and the introduction of mandatory reconsideration, the Committee has decided to undertake an inquiry into ESA and WCAs to follow-up its 2011 report.
Submissions of no more than 3,000 words are invited from interested organisations and individuals. The Committee is particularly interested to hear views on:
- Delivery of the WCA by Atos, including steps taken to improve the claimant experience
- The effectiveness of the WCA in indicating whether claimants are fit for work, especially for those claimants who have mental, progressive or fluctuating illnesses, including comparison with possible alternative models
- The process and criteria for procuring new providers of the WCA
- The ESA entitlement decision-making process
- The reconsideration and appeals process
- The impact of time-limiting contributory ESA
- Outcomes for people determined fit for work or assigned to the WRAG or the Support Group
- The interaction between ESA and Universal Credit implementation
Submissions do not need to address all of these points."
The deadline for submitting evidence is Friday 21 March. For more information, see:
Delays to Personal Independence Payment
A report just out from the National Audit Office says that The DWP has had to delay the Personal Independence Payment programme’s roll-out and reduce expected savings during this Spending Review period:
4th Independent Review of Work Capability Assessment - findings now available
Dr Paul Litchfield has published the findings from his independent review of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA). This is the 4th year in which a review has been done. Amongst his recommendations, campaigners are pleased to see a suggestion for setting minimum times for reassessment after a successful appeal; calls for simplification, better communication and speed; and the need to treat claimants with more dignity and respect. For the full report, see:
Speech by Rachel Reeves MP on Welfare and Work
A large focus of her speech - made three months into her post of Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions - is around initiatives which would get more people into secure work, whilst keeping welfare costs down. Part of this is around how they would restructure the Work Programme:
"In place of the top-down, bigger-is-better model imposed by this government, our replacement will be jointly commissioned by central and local government, so it can be better integrated with local economic strategies more closely connected to local businesses, and make better use of innovative charities and social enterprises."
Here is the text in full on the Politics UK website:
And some commentary here from Sue Marsh on the Diary of a Benefit Scrounger blog:
"...on the whole, this speech merely sets out a direction of travel. Perhaps as it took so long to decide what that direction would be, it’s understandable that today, we still see little detail. The speech seems to walk a strange tightrope between genuine solutions and Daily Mail sound-bites. Perhaps that was just the line the shadow work and pensions team hoped to tread."
"Making Work Pay"
This recent report from the CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development) discusses the implications for employees, employers and policy makers of the introduction of the Universal Credit. In particular it addresses the implications of continued conditionality for employees claiming Universal Credit who earn less than the National Minimum Wage at 35 hours a week i.e. they will either have to work more hours or get a better paid job. It looks at employees' views on finding sustainable work and on what will be expected of them under Universal Credit. The paper also considers what opportunities there will be for employees to get more work and stop claiming Universal Credit completely. Recommendations for employers include:
- Employers should ensure they provide training opportunities for all staff to meet the demands of their role, to drive engagement and productivity and to equip them for any available progression opportunities.
- Employers should ensure that all staff are aware of routes to progression.
- Employers should signpost employees to opportunities for skills and learning development outside the workplace, such as the local further education college
Motability Eligibility Under Personal Independence Payment
The Disability News Service has done an analysis of government figures which indicates that - under the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) - "the number of disabled people receiving the higher rate of the mobility benefit solely on the grounds of a physical mobility impairment could plunge to less than one-third of its current level by 2018". If this happens, it would have a significant impact on the eligibility of disabled people with mobility impairments to Motability vehicles:
Facts About Benefits
Here’s an interesting slide show of facts and statistics on benefits - and public assumptions about them - from In Actual Fact:
04: Independent Living
History of the Independent Living Movement: “If you don’t know your history, you’re like a leaf that doesn’t know it’s part of a tree”
The above is the title of a recent blog from Jenny Morris - a piece which recounts the achievements of the early pioneers of the Independent Living Movement in Britain starting three decades ago and argues for a legal right to independent living:
"We might think, from this account, that those who have been campaigning for independent living all these years have achieved what they were struggling for. But that is far from the case – and it is not just because we are currently facing unprecedented cuts to public services and a return of extremely negative attitudes towards disabled people. Throughout the last 30 years, disabled people have struggled, but failed, to establish a right to independent living......
.... The problem is that access to the resources which would make independent living possible is still determined by those who, all too often, have little or no understanding of where current policies come from. There remains a yawning gap between policy rhetoric and reality, a gap made possible because – as 30 years ago – disabled people still do not have a legal right to choose how they receive the support needed to go about their daily lives."
Joint Committee on Human Rights calls for Statutory Right to Independent Living for Disabled People
Dr Hywel Francis MP, the Chair of the influential cross party Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR), has called for disabled people's right to independent living to be put into the Care Bill which is nearing the end of its journey through parliament. The JCHR have also highlighted that many older and disabled people who receive support in their own homes do not currently get protection under the Human Rights Act.
In their report, the JCHR said that "the Care Bill must ensure that all providers of publicly arranged or paid-for social care services are bound by the Human Rights Act". And that "The Committee also expresses its disappointment that the Government did not take the opportunity in the Care Bill to provide for a free-standing, enforceable right to independent living. The Committee calls on the Government to bring forward an amendment at Commons Report Stage to amend the Bill to include a free standing provision to give concrete effect in UK law to the right to independent living".
The full JCHR report can be found at:
For a brief summary, see the Welfare News Service at:
"Personalisation is dead. Long live personalisation?"
A quick overview here on the Independent Living Debate blog of some key recent articles on the future prospects for personalisation, all of which are worthy of further investigation.
05: Inquiry Finds Death of Young Learning Disabled Man in NHS Facility Was Preventable
Connor Sparrowhawk died last July at the age of 18 after being found submerged in a bath following an epileptic seizure at an NHS learning disability unit run by Southern Health. The Inquiry found his death was preventable following failings in his support. More background can be found at @justiceforLB on Twitter and at:
And here, Rich Watts talks about Southern Health’s PR response to the case:
06: Better Working With Disabled People Consultation - Government Response
Last July, the government asked via a consultation how they could engage more effectively with disabled people, as well as discussing the future of the high level consultative body Equality 2025. They have now published their response to the replies to this. They want to set up a new Strategic Engagement Forum which would be lead by the Department for Work and Pensions in collaboration with the Dept of Health. For more on the forum, plus a link to the original consultation and full government response, see the Disability Rights UK website at:
07: More On Employment
ATW: Denying Access To Work
Kaliya Franklin writes here for Disability Now about her experience of applying for support through the government's Access to Work (AtW) scheme after being offered a new job:
"I’m 5 weeks into the process and far more disheartened than when I started. It’s impossible to plan properly without knowing what and how much support I’m entitled to. It’s impossible to start work without that entitlement. So, I’m still on benefits. Not in the job that’s mine. I’m far less confident about succeeding in employment than I was to begin with. Access to work should be the stable part of my support, not an additional challenge and barrier to employment."
Also in Disability Now, Mike Oliver here criticises the government disability employment strategy for repeating errors of the past by focusing on changing employer attitudes rather than placing an onus on them to change their behaviour:
08: Grants To Support Disabled People To Stand For Election To Continue
The government grant scheme to support disabled people to stand for election - for example as MPs or councillors - has been extended for an extra year to cover the 2015 general election. The scheme covers additional costs disabled people might incur such as paying for communication support and travelling:
Following on from this, here is a collection of stories describing the experiences and obstacles faced by disabled people either in elected office or in roles preparing for this. Their accounts form part of the Government’s Access to Elected Office for Disabled People Strategy:
09: 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:
10: Social Value Act: One Year On
On the first anniversary of the implementation of the Social Value Act - which requires commissioners of public services to consider the social, environmental and economic impact of a new service when they decide who to choose as its provider - this article by Minister for Civil Society Nick Hurd in the Guardian gives some examples of how it operates and highlights support for both providers and commissioners of services:
"We want providers to be confident in articulating their social value to commissioners, which is why we have funded the Inspiring Impact programme which helps charities to evidence their social impact. We are also supporting voluntary sector providers to deliver by extending our commercial masterclasses, which build skills that providers need to win contracts. Finally, we want to empower providers to challenge commissioners that don't do the act justice – which is why our Mystery Shopper service investigates concerns suppliers raise when tendering."
The Inspiring Impact programme can be found at:
Disability Hate Crime Network Newsletter
The Disability Hate Crime Network (DHCN) has produced their first newsletter which covers "a recent serious increase in real failures in the application of S146, the procedure which enhances a sentence where clear disability hostility has been shown to be at the core of a crime" as well as articles on what a Disability Hate Crime Bill should include and information on Third Party Reporting events:
European "Stop Disability Cuts" website launched
The European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) is launching a new website together with the European Foundation Centre and the European Disability Forum.
The website is part of their campaign “Stop Disability Cuts”, which "seeks to raise awareness of the increased marginalisation disabled people face as a result of the austerity measures at national and European level":
"Closing The Gap: Priorities For Essential Change In Mental Health"
This is the title of a new plan from the Department of Health on improving mental health. It "identifies 25 aspects of mental health care and support where government – along with health and social care leaders, academics and a range of representative organisations – expect to see tangible changes in the next couple of years: changes that will directly affect millions of lives for the better."
Their 25 priorities fit under the following broad areas:
Increasing access to mental health services
- Integrating physical and mental health care
- Starting early to promote mental wellbeing and prevent mental health problems
- Improving the quality of life of people with mental health problems
The document has sources of further information at the end:
Mental Health At Work And Austerity
Meanwhile, Peter Purton writes here as a TUC (Trades Union Congress) staff member about the employment position of people with mental health conditions, arguing that government austerity policy is: "undermining efforts to challenge the grim position of working age people with mental ill health in Britain today."
12: Contact Us
Telephone: 0161 234 3950
Breakthrough UK Ltd.
The Kevin Hyett Suite
Abraham Moss Centre, Crescent Road, Crumpsall, Manchester M8 5UF
Follow us on Twitter:
Breakthrough’s YouTube account can be found at: