Tag Archives: UNCRPD

Disabled people’s rights are hanging on upcoming judicial review

Welcome to hell: The work capability assessment is the start of a long path involving challenges, continual reassessments, misdirection or demands from the DWP, Job Centre Plus or work programme providers, leading eventually to despair, destitution and, in many cases, death. Could YOU mount a judicial review against this regime?

Welcome to hell: The work capability assessment is the start of a long path involving challenges, continual reassessments, misdirection or demands from the DWP, Job Centre Plus or work programme providers, leading eventually to despair, destitution and, in many cases, death. Could YOU mount a judicial review against this regime?

An appeal to the United Nations, using its Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities to show how the sick and disabled in the UK are being mistreated by the government, will depend on the result of a judicial review later this month.

I have previously documented the work of Samuel Miller, to make the UN aware of the life-threatening activities undertaken by the Department for Work and Pensions under Iain Duncan Smith’s regime of cuts and changes to entitlement, so he should need no introduction.

Mr Miller has been hoping to induce the UN to consider whether the current Smith/DWP regime contravenes international agreements on human rights and the rights of the disabled. Many Vox Political readers have submitted evidence to him, to be used in support of this.

But he wrote to me yesterday, saying this work must be deferred until the result of the judicial review is known.

“Submission criteria require that domestic remedies be exhausted,” he wrote. “Any complaint submitted to the [UN] committee must first have been submitted to the national courts and authorities for consideration.

“As you are probably aware, there’s an upcoming judicial review of the Work Capability Assessment for people living with mental health problems. The dates are January 15-16 & 18, in the Upper Tribunal Courts in London.

“If I can demonstrate to the UN that remedies invoked by the State are neither effective nor available, then UNCRPD complaints would carry more weight.”

He quoted a letter from Jorge Araya, secretary of the UN committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, who stated: “Complainants have initially the duty to demonstrate that they have exhausted domestic remedies, then the burden shifts to the State party to demonstrate that there are remedies still available; if that happens, complainants should demonstrate  that remedies invoked by the State are neither effective nor available.”

So that’s the situation at the moment. Before Christmas, Mr Miller said the amount of time required to mount a judicial review would put the lives of sick and disabled people in jeopardy; that is not the case while one is about to be heard.

Also, consultation with a barrister, Steve Broach (@SteveBroach) has suggested that sick and/or disabled people should explore potential judicial review with solicitors – especially after the DWP announced that people on sickness benefits were “to be offered work experience to help them back into a job”.

The DWP’s announcement last month stated: “People on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) who have been assessed as being able to go back to work at some point are placed in the Work-Related Activity Group for the benefit and are expected to take part in activity which helps them prepare for a return to employment. One of the options available to them will now include voluntary work experience.

“Having taken into account an individual’s circumstances, a Jobcentre Plus adviser or Work Programme provider may feel that an appropriate mandatory work placement – which must be of benefit to the community – would be helpful.

People who fail to carry out any agreed work-related activity without good reason may face having their benefits sanctioned. The sanction will be made up of an open-ended period which is lifted when the claimant meets the requirements, followed by a short fixed period of 1, 2 or 4 weeks.”

The sticking-point would be the cost of bringing a judicial review – in the region of £10,000 to £20,000 for a straightforward case; higher for a more complex matter. If the claimant is unsuccessful, they are likely to be liable for the defendant’s costs as well as their own. “They are therefore looking at a legal bill of upwards of £30,000 if they lose, and they must be prepared for this eventuality, bearing in mind the unpredictability of judicial review proceedings and costs orders,” Mr Miller told me.

Also, of course, we know that David Cameron has vowed to crack down on appeals that delay new laws, planning decisions and policies, and this could potentially be extended to human rights judicial reviews, since his has government already made substantial cuts to legal aid.

What do you think? I’m really interested in hearing what readers think about this.

Could you mount a judicial review, if a decision was made to force you into a work placement and you thought it would harm your health?

What about those of you in the legal profession? You should understand the current situation – regarding the cost of legal action – better than anyone else – is it realistic to expect people on sickness and disability benefits to finance expensive court cases?

If not, what other possibilities are available?

Grayling, IDS, Miller to be tried for crimes against humanity?

It might seem ridiculous but the DWP and Atos are guilty of the behaviour described in this image – and much worse – leading to loss of income and stress that, for some, has been intolerable. Thousands of deaths have been recorded.

It may seem like fantasy but the International Criminal Court has been asked to consider whether to take legal action against ministers in the UK government whose enforcement of austerity measures has led to the deaths of sick and disabled people.

Disability specialist Samuel Miller has written to the office of the prosecutor at the ICC in The Hague, intending to file a complaint against the ministers at the Department for Work and Pensions who are considered most responsible for the “draconian welfare reforms and the resultant deaths of their society’s most vulnerable” – Iain Duncan Smith, Chris Grayling and Maria Miller.

He believes there is precedent for such a case, thanks to a request for a Greek austerity trial at the Hague.

But the matter is not cut and dried. Mr Miller’s letter seeks clarification on whether austerity deaths of the sick and disabled in the UK are considered a crime against humanity by the ICC and whether the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities would be taken into consideration by the court.

Mr Miller has spent the past year reporting on the crisis for the UK’s sick and disabled to the United Nations. His own verdict is clear as crystal: “Austerity measures consisting of draconian welfare reforms and ‘sham’ means-testing (Atos Healthcare UK and the Department for Work and Pensions) are ostensibly to blame for their plight – with disability hate crime and inflammatory media attacks factored into this mix.”

My own opinion is that Mr Miller is right. At the very least, IDS and his cronies are guilty of corporate manslaughter (see previous blog posts on disability, Atos, the DWP and the many, many deaths).

Will the International Criminal Court see it this way? We’ll have to wait and see.

To be honest, I doubt that this campaign will score a victory at its first attempt.

But the recent verdict on the Hillsborough tragedy has shown that people are prepared to work hard and wait a long time for justice.