Tag Archives: disability

What is the point of Remembrance Day when the government lets down our veterans so badly?

Contempt: at the national Remembrance Day commemoration service in 2019, Boris Johnson showed contempt for our Armed Forces by laying his wreath face-down. Is this merely symptomatic of the Tory government’s attitude to veterans generally?

I pass this on without comment. Do I need to amplify it further?

Disabled ex-armed forces personnel are being let down by the welfare system, with many experiencing stress and anxiety brought on by the struggle to access social security benefits, according to the Royal British Legion.

The charity said frontline Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) staff were insufficiently aware of their obligations under the armed forces covenant, which requires public services to give special consideration to injured ex-service personnel.

Among the difficulties reported by veterans to a Royal British Legion survey was the failure of benefits officials to understand post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when carrying out and scoring health assessments for disability benefits.

study by a Salford University academic published last year found many armed forces veterans with complex needs reported overwhelmingly negative experiences of universal credit, disability benefits assessments and benefit sanctions.

Source: Disabled veterans being let down by benefits system – Royal British Legion | Benefits | The Guardian

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Thousands of disabled people could be eligible for £4,600 a year – in tax credits

If you have a disability and are receiving Personal Independence Payment, then you could be eligible for a bonus – from the taxman (or woman).

If you are still able to work, you might also be able to get the disability element of Working Tax Credit, totalling up to £3,220 a year, or up to £4,610 if your disability is severe.

Gov.uk’s tax calculator can help you find out how much you could receive – you can do it here.

It is true that tax credits have been replaced by Universal Credit for most people, so usually you can only make a new claim for tax credits if you also receive the severe disability premium, are entitled to it, or if this was the case within the past month.

If you can’t make a new claim for tax credits, you may still be able to apply for Universal Credit (or Pension Credit if you and your partner are State Pension age or over).

You have nothing to lose.

Source: Are you eligible for PIP? Thousands of claimants could be missing out on an extra £4,600 – Chronicle Live

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Thousands of disabled students could get Universal Credit after woman wins legal fight

Tactical cruelty: perhaps DWP bosses realised they were going to lose a court case so they changed the law in order to ensure that disabled students would continue to be unable to claim Universal Credit.

This is good news for many – but not for everybody:

Tens of thousands of disabled students could qualify for Universal Credit after 22-year-old mostly-blind Sidra Kauser won a legal victory over a loophole saying she could not claim Universal Credit.

To receive the benefit, she would have had to take a work capability assessment – but the DWP’s rules contained a bizarre ‘Catch-22’ that she could not take the test, because she is a student.

As a result, she could not be found to have limited capability for work, and therefore couldn’t receive the benefit.

The High Court has quashed the DWP’s decision, saying it breaches the Tory-run government department’s own regulations, dating back to 2013 – and ordered it to pay Ms Kauser’s legal fees.

But this fight is not over because the Tory government changed the law on August 5, ensuring that disabled students claiming Universal Credit after that date would not be invited to a work capability assessment and therefore would not be eligible for the benefit at all.

That will have to be challenged in a future court case.

But this is another victory for crusading lawyers Leigh Day, who explained the case:

Sidra Kauser, aged 22, from Halifax, is visually impaired and is currently studying for a masters degree at York University.

She received Personal Independence Payment (PIP) but that, combined with a student loan, was not enough to provide her with an acceptable standard of living. After payment of her rent, she had £120 a month to live on.

She applied for universal credit, but because she was a student, she was refused a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which meant she was effectively disentitled from claiming universal credit.

Sidra applied for a judicial review of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) policy (which stated that disabled students shouldn’t be invited to a WCA), arguing that the law required the DWP to conduct a WCA to determine whether she had limited capability for work, in which case she would be entitled to universal credit.

Now, after the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, told the court in July, 2020 that she would not be defending Sidra’s claim, a high court judge has ruled that the SSWP had acted unlawfully and has quashed the decision to refuse Sidra’s claim for universal credit.

Sidra will now be given a WCA, and if she is deemed to be unable to work, she will be entitled to make a claim for universal credit.

The court ruling also has an impact on those disabled students whose applications for universal credit had previously been unsuccessful because they had been refused a WCA.

However, on 5 August the DWP changed the law so that other disabled students who made a claim for universal credit after that date would not be invited  to a WCA and would not therefore be able to establish their limited capability for work.

Ms Kauser said: “I am glad I decided to take a stand and pursue my claim for judicial review of the DWP decision to refuse me a WCA. Hopefully other students will benefit from the court ruling.”

Leigh Day solicitor Lucy Cadd added: “Sidra made a brave stand against the decision to refuse her a WCA and it has proved successful. It has been estimated by the charity Disability Rights UK that the Secretary of State’s unlawful policy, which has been in operation since 2013, could have adversely affected 30,000 disabled students. Other disabled students who were refused a WCA prior to 5 August 2020 and therefore lost out on their claim for universal credit, should ask the Secretary of State to revise her decision.

“Although the DWP has callously changed the regulations to prevent more disabled students being entitled to a WCA, there may be scope for legal challenge to the new regulations.”

Source: Disabled student wins right to be considered for universal credit

The Tories have used Covid to abandon children with disabilities and their parents

Money, money, money: Boris Johnson’s government says it is spending billions to help children with special educational needs and disabilities weather the Covid crisis – but they aren’t seeing it. So where is it going?

It may be hard to accept, but Boris Johnson and his cronies have been weaponising Covid-19, using the crisis as an excuse to take support away from vulnerable children.

Parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities have been particularly hard-hit, as Metro‘s report shows:

An Ofsted report into the impact of the first lockdown published this week found that some children lost basic skills and learning as a result of school closures and restrictions on movement.

Turning to SEND children, it found the pandemic has presented ‘serious and far-reaching’ challenges for families, with some feeling ‘isolated’ from existing services.

One parent who spoke to Metro branded the situation a ‘national disgrace’ and said her three-year-old son had received no physio or occupational therapy for nine months.

Another told of a ‘pressure cooker’ environment and the ‘terror’ parents face with no end in sight, as they struggle without services they had previously relied upon in their day-to-day lives.

The response from the Tories’ Department for Education spokesperson gives great emphasis to the amounts of money that have been allocated to help parents and children in this situation.

It mentions “£37million this year to help thousands of low-income families raising disabled or seriously ill children with the challenge they face staying at home”, a “£1billion Covid catch-up fund”, and “increasing high needs funding for local authorities by £780 million this year and a further £730 million next year”.

But who actually receives the cash and what does it actually pay for?

This year we have seen the Tories waste no less than £12 billion on a Covid-19 test, track and trace system that not only doesn’t work but is actually a contamination risk.

So quoting amounts of money allocated to particular projects means nothing.

It is clear from the stories here that these parents and children are not receiving the support they need.

And I, for one, would like to know what the Tories are really doing with that cash.

Source: Exhausted parents of disabled children feel ‘abandoned’ in lockdown | Metro News

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Disabled comedian Rosie Jones shames Tories with damning verdict on disability law and benefits

I didn’t see this when it was aired on the BBC’s Question Time last Thursday – and I’m sorry because it was one of the few times that sad rag of a show would have been worth watching.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act, comedian Rosie Jones, who happens to have cerebral palsy, was asked to comment on what it has meant for herself and other people who have disabilities.

She didn’t hold back. Her comments about the benefits Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and its successor Personal Independence Payment (PIP) were scathing.

And all through, Health Secretary Matt Hancock sat like a nodding dog. At the end, he was even smiling at the torment his government forces people to suffer:

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Starmer’s Tory-supporting crackdown on his own party makes him a danger to people with disabilities

[Image: @Rachael_Swindon on Twitter.]

Apologists for Keir Starmer who reckon he’s easing the way for Tory legislation to make them “own their mistakes” will have a hard time justifying this.

Starmer and his team are working behind the scenes to stop Labour MPs from criticising the Conservatives.

After significant rebellions against one-line Labour whips on the Overseas Operations Bill and the Covert Human Intelligent Sources Bill (the so-called ‘Spycops’ bill that allows government agents to commit crimes including murder, torture and rape), the whips office has broken party protocol to issue written reprimands to the rebels.

The letters stipulate a reprimand period of six months, to be extended to twelve if the recipient continues to break the whip.

They have been shared with Labour’s parliamentary committee – a group of backbench MPs elected by the parliamentary Labour party (PLP), and currently dominated by the right – which will determine whether to inform the MP’s constituency Labour party (CLP), as well as the party’s national executive committee (NEC).

This information could then be considered when an MP seeks reselection ahead of a general election.

“That’s the fear factor,” one MP told Novara Media. “This could impact your reselection [and] it might be over a one-line whip. It’s intimidation plain and simple.”

A number of those who received letters are seeking legal advice from union representatives, the MP added.

But that’s not all.

It seems someone in Starmer’s office has taken it upon themselves to water down criticism of the Tory government’s failure to protect people with disabilities by reducing the disability employment gap and mitigating the effect of the Covid-19 crisis on them, and in its new COVID-19 guidance for people placed in the “clinically extremely vulnerable” group.

Someone in the office of the shadow minister for people with disabilities, Vicky Foxcroft, sent a draft of her comments to John Pring of Disability News Service which differed significantly from the official version of her comments released by the Labour Party.

The changes include the removal of a reference to the “vital” role played by trade unions in protecting disabled people from discrimination, along with any reference to disability discrimination.

Read the DNS article and see for yourself. It states,

Responding to the new pandemic guidance… her official statement said that disabled people were just “anxious” rather than “extremely worried”. Her call for disabled people who might need to shield again needing to be “properly compensated and not left without enough money to survive” had vanished.

This represents a serious policy change from Labour – back to the indifference to anti-disability discrimination that marred the New Labour years and Ed Miliband’s leadership.

People with disabilities can no longer rely on Labour MPs to stand up for them because it seems the party leadership now supports the Tories’ campaign to punish them, just for existing.

Starmer seems determined to let Boris Johnson’s corrupt Tories do whatever they want – harm whoever they want – while threatening to sabotage the careers of anybody in his own ranks who dares to protest.

The big question is: What is to be done about this?

The union Unite has already cut its funding to the Labour Party by 10 per cent, and the decision to remove a supportive reference to trade unions from an official comment could be interpreted as an attack – or even a retaliation. Should that union – and others – cut support for Labour even more?

And what about constituency Labour parties? The threat to MPs – which includes sanctions that could lead to their deselection (to be replaced by right-wingers parachuted in by head office, no doubt – that was Tony Blair’s practice) – is also an indirect attack on the power of members to choose their representatives.

Will they act? Should they?

What do you think?

Source: Keir Starmer Has Launched an Unprecedented Crackdown on Rebel MPs | Novara Media

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The Tories have started PIP and ESA video assessment trials. Claimants are terrified

What the claimant sees: benefit assessors carrying out video interviews may think they’re being perfectly reasonable but the Depatment for Work and Pensions has created such a stink around its denial-of-benefits system that people with illnesses and disabilities are likely to be terrified by them. And that’s if they can even afford the equipment to take part in video interviews!

People are being put in fear for their lives because the Johnson government has started work trialling video assessments of disability and sickness benefit claims.

The trial arises from a false premise – that people with long-term illnesses and disabilities are as capable as able-bodied people of taking part in video calls with confidence and coherence.

That is not true and, in many cases, the mere fact of taking part in one of the Tory government’s notoriously-rigged benefits “assessments” will be enough to put them off.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey announced the trials at a meeting of the Commons Work and Pensions committee on September 30, saying, “We did try to get some extra capital on video assessments. We weren’t successful in getting additional money, so we have reprioritised some of our capital budget to get that underway.”

A senior civil servant, John Paul Marks, put flesh on these bones: “For video, CHDA has started trialling how to do fit for work decisions by video, so we’re starting that now.

“For PIP we’re trying to also test doing video assessments for about 500 customers.

“So we can understand, does that improve the health care professionals capacity to ensure a positive experience for the customer and be able to get more evidence to support a recommendation on a functional assessment.”

The website Benefits and Work pointed out that many claimants will be “deeply unhappy” with the principle of video assessment:

Some will find the experience of talking on camera provokes considerable anxiety. Some will have concerns about data protection, given that a copy of the video is likely to be saved on a server by the DWP.

At the moment it is not clear whether claimants will have the option to refuse to have a video assessment and insist on either a telephone or, when they become available and safe, face to face assessment instead.

A commenter to the site said the issue would be particularly acute for those with mental health issues:

“This could breach the Equalty Act 2010… Anxiety would make the assessment inaccessible or [the claimant] would suffer an unreasonable experience if required to be video [or] audio-recorded.”

Not only that, but what happens if the claimant doesn’t have the technology to take part in a video assessment, due – for example – to extreme poverty? After all, why would they be claiming the benefit if they didn’t need the money?

Consider this response to This Site’s story yesterday:

Some have already come to the conclusion that this is a quota-filling exercise; that the DWP isn’t interested in whether people deserve Personal Independence Payment or Employment and Support Allowance – the only concern is ensuring that a certain number of people are pushed off the books:

As with any change in a benefit system, it seems clear that video trials will be open to abuse.

This will have to be monitored closely and I will be keen to hear of any experiences.

Source: PIP and ESA video assessment trials have started

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Why do we think it’s okay for people with disabilities to be terrorised by Tory benefit assessors?

As seen on Twitter.

“When I looked at the report I had to double check it had my name on it. I have never seen so many lies in my life!”

That‘s just one comment on the assessment process for Personal Independence Payment, the so-called “benefit” the Conservative government claims it provides to people with disabilities.

In fact, it has always been more about denying that claimants have any disabilities at all and removing their cash so that they die slowly in despair – but the Tories can deny responsibility.

A response to the above comment reads: “Fantasy masquerading as fact again in a PIP assessment. How many more such cases are there going to be before the DWP does something about it?”

Many – because a change of government is required before we can expect a change of heard and we can’t expect that any time soon.

Even people who should reasonably expect to be safe from sanction are terrorised by the process.

So. The dreaded PIP renewal has arrived. Why when he’s 20 and nothing has changed, do I get the awful knot in tummy? Knowing we will have to fight hard again,” wrote one carer.

Another wrote: “Got a brown envelope regarding … PIP today. Theres no issue, they’re extending it. Its fine. But the effect that brown envelope has on me is terrifying. Seeing it makes me physically sick, sweaty and my heart race I’m genuinely scared [of] my government.”

These good people have reason to be.

New figures from the Department for Work and Pensions have shown that, between April 2018 and the end of January this year, 1,700 people died within three months of their PIP claim being rejected by the government.

As I mentioned above, the Tories can deny responsibility for these deaths – as minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson did when providing the figures in response to a question from Labour MP Jessica Morden.

He said: “There is no evidence in this data to suggest someone’s reason for claiming Personal Independence Payments was the cause of their death and it would be misleading to suggest otherwise.”

But it is reasonable to question whether these people would have died if they had not been deprived of the benefits they seem clearly to have needed, in order to live.

And these figures follow on from work carried out by This Writer – me – a few years ago in which I had to force the government of the day to admit 2,400 people had died between dates in 2011 and 2014, within just two weeks of having their claims for sickness benefits rejected.

It is a quiet cull.

The Tories have learned from the mistakes of the Nazis; they don’t send a van around to people’s houses to gas people with disabilities to death. They have realised they don’t have to.

The Tories know that it is much easier for them simply to deprive people with disabilities who claim benefits – the Nazis used to call them “useless eaters” and I’m sure some Tories do the same – of the means to survive.

This Site is filled with countless stories of the victims of this policy.

I could pick holes in Tomlinson’s words; of course it is not anybody’s reason for claiming a benefit that leads to their death after being denied it. The cause is the deprivation of the means to continue living.

But no individual case can prove this because the Tories would say it was anecdotal.

What is needed is a class action legal case in which it may be demonstrated that disabled people died who may not have done so, had they not been deprived of money.

There are plenty of examples now. All that is needed is someone to take it up as a cause. They could probably face a deluge of information if only they advertised for it.

I would do it myself but I seem to be spending too much time in courtrooms as it is. And I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

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Why are people with disabilities being refused access to Covid-19 test centres?

Cartoonist Andrzej Krauze’s view of government sickness and disability assessments, from years ago. Now it seems we can apply it to Covid-19 test centres, which are inaccessible to many people with disabilities.

Remember when This Site was publishing articles showing how people with disabilities were being refused benefits because their assessments were in inaccessible places so if they made it to the test, they were seen not to have disabilities, and if they didn’t, then their application was binned because they couldn’t be bothered to attend?

Well, now it seems the government is using the same wheeze at Covid-19 test centres:

Back in the day, Tony Blair (I think) passed a law called the Disability Discrimination Act, in which it became illegal for buildings that were supposed to be publicly-accessible not to have facilities for people with disabilities.

What happened to that? Is it still on the statute book? If so, why the hell isn’t it being enforced?

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Tories are attacking disabled people again while we’re looking the other way

The Conservative government has changed its assessment process for disability benefits to make it harder for people to get a correct decision on their claim – it seems.

The Tory miniser for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, revealed details of the secret change in a letter to the Commons Work and Pensions committee, after its chair, Stephen Timms, raised the issue on behalf of claimants.

It has been usual practice for claimants to request and receive a copy of their assessment report within days of the report being submitted to the DWP.

They have been able to request a copy of their report, check it thoroughly, raise any issues with the assessment providers and receive responses before they have received the decision.

In a fair, sane system, this is appropriate. So of course the Tories have changed it.

In a letter dated September 16, Tomlinson MP wrote:

“The department does not share assessment provider reports with claimants before they have been considered by a DWP Case Manager.”

This is because:

“Providing the report to claimants immediately after the assessment and before the Case Manager has made their decision could therefore give a false impression on the outcome of their claim.”

This will make it much harder for claimants to demand the mandatory review that the Tories insist they have to endure before appealing against a wrong decision.

It can take up to 15 weeks for claimants to receive the decision. Once they do, and if they disagree with it, they will have about three weeks – or less – to make a request for a mandatory review. 

The 30+ page assessment report is a key part of the process and it will take about 10 days from requesting a copy to receiving it.

This leaves very little time for them to see the recommendations made, to analyse the report, to check it for accuracy, to see if there are any errors, and to prepare and send a request for MR if necessary.

Many people with disabilities are very weak, due to their condition, and do not have the strength of will needed to push through a dispute with the government that has a short time limit.

You can be sure the Tories had this in mind when they secretly made this cruel change.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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