Monthly Archives: June 2014

Campaigners occupy grounds of Westminster Abbey to protest against closure of ILF

Users of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), along with members of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), UK Uncut and Occupy London, have set up a protest camp in the grounds of Westminster Abbey.

Disabled activists chained themselves to the gates while the camp was being set up.

The ILF was originally set up in 1988 as a national resource to fund support for disabled people with high support needs, enabling them to live in the community rather than move into residential care. It allowed them to be active in society – in education and employment, as volunteers and trustees, as employers, and as carers for family and friends.

According to Independent Living Fightback, “Currently 17,500 disabled people with the highest levels of need receive essential support through the ILF enabling them to enjoy fulfilling lives and contribute to their communities. The closure of the fund will have a devastating impact on the lives of these individuals and their families. It also has a much wider significance that affects all of us because at the heart of this issue is the fundamental question of disabled people’s place in society: do we want a society that keeps its disabled citizens out of sight, prisoners in their own homes or locked away in institutions, surviving not living or do we want a society that enables disabled people to participate, contribute and enjoy the opportunities, choice and control that non disabled people take for granted?”

“In December 2010 the Government announced the closure of the ILF to new applicants, and in December 2012 following a consultation on the future of the Fund that disabled people claim was inaccessible and carried out in bad faith, it was announced that the Fund would be closed permanently from April 2015. The Government claimed that Local Authorities could meet the same outcomes as the ILF and proposed transfer for existing ILF recipients to their Local Authorities.

“A group of ILF users successfully challenged the decision to close the fund and The Court of Appeal ruled in November 2013 that the closure decision had breached the public sector equality duty because the Minister had not been given adequate information to be able to properly assess the practical effect of closure on the particular needs of ILF users and their ability to live independently.

“However, on 6th March 2014 the Minister for Disabled People announced his intention to press ahead with the closure of the Independent Living Fund on 30 June 2015. A fresh legal challenge by ILF recipients was issued last week on the same basis as the first that once again the Minister had not discharged the public sector equality duty because he did not have adequate information to be able to properly understand what the impact of closure would be on the people affected.

“Transition funding will not be ring fenced for social care once it is transferred to local authorities, and so even within 2015-2016 there will be no guarantee that this money will be spent on supporting disabled people to live independently rather than absorbed into the broader council budget.

“ILF recipients will only be eligible for continued social care support from their local authority if they meet… criteria. The new Government’s intention to set the new national eligibility threshold at ‘substantial’ means that many simply will not receive any replacement support from their local authority once the ILF closes.”

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UK Uncut activist ‘Lucy’ has blogged her reasons for joining the protest.

“For me this is personal,” she writes. “I grew up with narratives handed down to me by my family of visceral poverty. My granddad, one of 12, described siblings dying from treatable illnesses; of the ever-present shame and fear of the workhouse; of fear of not having enough to eat, or of being warm enough or of knowing where they would sleep. When he died in 2009 he had paid for his own funeral, the avoidance of what was for him a final shame – the paupers grave.

“In his lifetime those fears were replaced with rights – the right to housing, the right to support in old age, the right to support for those who were unwell, the right to support if there was no work, rights to equal access. However imperfect these were rights nonetheless.

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“Today I take action because I believe that those rights have been eroded and because I do not accept the government’s claim that there is no money to fund vital public services.

“I act because I am angry that corporations like Boots are enabled by our government to avoid paying taxes, while disabled people are told that they do not have the right to make decisions about their own care.

“I act because I am furious that citizenship has become tied to wealth and not to fundamental rights. I am angry that we are told that the cuts are about creating choice in a market: because what kind of choice is being a prisoner at home or in residential care?”

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Art attack on Coalition policies that drive people to their deaths

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A UK artist has created an art installation as a memorial to the suicide victims of welfare reform.

Melanie Cutler contacted Vox Political regarding her piece – ‘Stewardship’ – a few weeks ago, asking, “Do you think I’ll be arrested?”

The response was that it should be unlikely if she informed the media. The artworks have been displayed at the Northampton Degree Show and are currently at the Free Range Exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery building in Brick Lane, London, which ends tomorrow (June 30).

Entry is free and the installation will be located in F Block, B5.

“I have become an artist later on in life,” Melanie told Vox Political. “I was a carer for my son and, a few decades later, my father. I have worked most of my life too, raising three children.

“Only recently, while studying fine art at University I found my health deteriorating. I have a cocktail of conditions – Type 1 diabetes (diagnosed last year), Coeliac disease, asthma, rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis (currently being investigated), osteoarthritis, psoriasis and a brain tumour (thankfully benign and inactive). I have also lived with depression for almost all my adult life.

“I wanted my work to articulate how I feel about certain issues. In March this year I pitched up in Thurrock, a marginal seat which will be hotly fought-over in the run-up to the next general election. I sat in front of a blank canvas and asked the people of the town to tell me how they felt about welfare reform, the press and the 2015 General Election. I took a team of people to film and photograph the event and to explain to people what the work was about.

'People of Thurrock' in the making. Artist Melanie Cutler sits, silenced, while residents of Thurrock write their opinions of 'welfare reform' on the canvas.

‘People of Thurrock’ in the making. Artist Melanie Cutler sits, silenced, while residents of Thurrock write their opinions of ‘welfare reform’ on the canvas.

“Buoyed on by the reaction to ‘People of Thurrock’, I went on to something else I felt was an important issue; I put welfare reform under the microscope and conducted research around this issue. I was struck by the amount of people who, through no fault of their own, seek to end their own lives as they feel they have no other option. My own family has been touched by suicide and one of my own children is on ESA and awaiting an interview with ATOS.”

'Stewardship': Each plaque features the name of a 'welfare reform' victim and a description of how they died.

‘Stewardship’: Each plaque features the name of a ‘welfare reform’ victim and a description of how they died.

'Stewardship': This memorial is to Paul Reekie, the Scottish poet and writer who took his own life in 2010. Letters left on his table stated that his Housing Benefit and Incapacity Benefit had been stopped. The poet's death led to the creation of the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights.

‘Stewardship’: This memorial is to Paul Reekie, the Scottish poet and writer who took his own life in 2010. Letters left on his table stated that his Housing Benefit and Incapacity Benefit had been stopped.
The poet’s death led to the creation of the Black Triangle Anti-Defamation Campaign in Defence of Disability Rights.

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History is made as Vox Political agrees with David Cameron

 

Jean-Claude Juncker, tax avoidance mastermind and now President of the European Commission.

Jean-Claude Juncker, tax avoidance mastermind and now President of the European Commission.

Believe it or not, David Cameron was right to oppose the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission.

If Private Eye is to be believed, Juncker has a record of wreaking fiscal havoc across the continent, thanks to his behaviour embracing corporate tax dodgers as finance minister and prime minister of Luxembourg.

Anti-EU readers will be interested to note that he was chair of the EU’s council of economic and financial affairs, in which role he played a key part in shaping the economic and monetary aspects of the 1992 Maastricht Treaty.

Eye 1368 (June 13-26) states that Luxembourg has turned itself into a tax haven, “but, crucially, one at the heart of Europe entitled to tax-free flows of money in and out of its borders in a way traditional sunny island havens… could only dream of.

“The Grand Duchy became the member of the economic club that pilfered from the club’s funds.”

Let’s look at examples: “An especially fruitful line has been multi-billion-pound corporate tax avoidance at its neighbours’ expense. In the most infamous case, Vodafone still routes more than £50bn worth of loans through Luxembourg for no purpose other than taking advantage of tax laws and administrative rulings carefully tailored by Juncker’s governments to facilitate large-scale tax avoidance… The company is sitting on a £17.4 billion “tax asset”, ie reduction in future tax bills around the world, courtesy of [Mr] Juncker.

“Hundreds of other multinationals, including the UK’s Glaxo, Tesco and Financial Times publisher Pearson, use Luxembourg in similar ways at enormous cost to Europe’s economies.”

And the buck doesn’t stop rolling with tax, either: “Juncker pursued an aggressive regime of financial deregulation, especially in the area of investment fund administration. So it was no surprise that when Bernard Madoff’s ponzi scheme collapsed in 2008, a large chunk of the money had come through loosely-regulated Luxembourg funds set up by Swiss banks.”

The man responsible for the above is now in charge of the European Union. David Cameron was right to oppose his appointment.

Be afraid.

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Cameron aide charged over child abuse images – at long last

A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.

A Rock in a hard place: Patrick Rock, formerly a senior civil servant and policy advisor, who now faces allegations that he possessed indecent images of child abuse.

Patrick Rock, a former aide of David Cameron and protege of Margaret Thatcher, has been charged with three counts of making an indecent photograph of a child, and with possession of 59 indecent images of childrenmore than four months after he was arrested on suspicion of child pornography offences.

Crown Prosecution Service lawyers assessed the images as Level C, meaning they showed sexual activity between adults and children.

This is the man who, as deputy head of 10 Downing Street’s policy unit, had been working on policies that are allegedly intended to make it harder to find images of child abuse on the Internet.

He was arrested on February 13, only hours after resigning his position with the government. Coincidence?

Nothing was mentioned in the press at the time, but days later the Daily Mail started stirring up historical allegations against Labour’s Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey and Patricia Hewitt. Coincidence?

It seems suspicions were raised in the Labour Party, because shadow minister Jon Ashworth asked, in the public interest:

  • When were 10 Downing Street and David Cameron first made aware that Mr Rock may have been involved in an offence?
  • How much time passed until Mr Rock was questioned about the matter and the police alerted?
  • What contact have officials had with Mr Rock since his resignation?
  • What was Mr Rock’s level of security clearance?

And, most importantly:

  • Why were details of Mr Rock’s resignation not made public immediately?

Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood stonewalled: “Our … actions were driven by the overriding importance of not jeopardising either [the National Crime Agency’s] investigation or the possibility of a prosecution.”

He said: “We judged it was inappropriate to make an announcement while the NCA investigations were continuing.”

David Cameron has declined to comment on the latest development, saying it is a matter for the courts.

He’s changed his tune, hasn’t he?

When Andy Coulson was still facing charges in the phone hacking trial, Cameron couldn’t wait to get on television and make a statement, and never mind whether it was in contempt of court.

All in all, it seems we are facing yet another cover-up bid by this “most open government ever”.

Let us not forget that this happened in the same week that Iain Duncan Smith lost his legal appeal to keep problems with Universal Credit veiled in secrecy.

The DWP had insisted publication of the papers, warning of the dangers likely to be caused by Universal Credit, would have a “chilling effect” on the DWP’s working – a standard defence (see Andrew Lansley’s successful bid to prevent publication of the risk register, detailing problems with his calamitous Health and Social Care Act) that was thrown out by Judge Wikeley in a trice.

The DWP then argued that the order to publish was perverse – that the tribunal responsible had reached a decision which no reasonable tribunal would have reached. Judge Wikeley found that the challenge “does not get near clearing this high hurdle”.

Finally – and most desperately – the DWP tried to argue that the tribunal had not given due weight to the expertise of a DWP witness. Judge Wikeley had to point out that, by law, he cannot substitute his own view of the facts for that taken by the original tribunal.

The DWP was then sent away to consider whether to lodge another appeal.

That’s at least three attempts to hide facts from the public in a single week (it is arguable that Cameron spoke up about Coulson in order to cause a mistrial and prevent him from being convicted of two charges; he cannot say he was unaware of what he was doing, because he has already been rebuked by another judge, earlier this year, for commenting on the trial of Nigella Lawson’s former assistants. In addition, wasn’t it suspicious that Coulson’s defence team immediately leapt up to call for a mistrial ruling, based on the “maelstrom of commentary” Cameron stirred up?) from – as previously mentioned, this “most open government ever”.

There may be more that haven’t become public knowledge.

Does David Cameron really think the public will put their trust in him, with a record like that?

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