God help us all!

December 19, 2010

Introduction

Not a week goes by without a fresh onslaught against disabled people at the hands of a Government who appear hell bent upon making the Orwellian nightmare into a reality. Big Brothers Cameron and Clegg have unleashed their bloody thirsty pack of rabid mongels – some simply pleased to be given the opportunity to climb the greasy pole; others who are like the pathetic playground bully, want to hurt those who can’t fight back.

 

The huge talking point in recent weeks has been the release of the consultation document on replacing the Disability Living Allowance with the absurd Personal Independence Payment (PIP). I say ‘absurd’ because everything about it adds up to smashing disabled people’s ability to be independent. For legal reasons DPAC must be careful not to stray into personal attacks – therefore I will merely state that during my reading of this document, Captain Ska’s song “Liar, Liar” was pulsing through my head.

 

Before I look at the consultation document itself I’d like to invite you to read the petition at:

 

http://www.petitiononline.co.uk/petition/petition-the-minister-for-disabled-people-to-recall-the-public-consultation-on-dla-reform/569/0aa4fc2026635b34c32b57a1e644d746

 

Adding insult to injury

 

In the Ministerial forward Maria Miller states:

 

“The Coalition Government is committed to helping disabled people to exercise choice and control over their lives.” I want to suggest we ought to keep this statement firmly in our minds as we consider all the implications behind their proposals. She goes goes on to say, “We have been absolutely clear that our welfare reform plans are designed to protect people in the most vulnerable situations, including disabled people.”

What is absolutely clear is that this is “doublespeak” – it means the Government will discharge any responsibility for the well-being of the majority of disabled people.

 

The document is full of questionable assertions which are impossible to challenge if you’re a lay person. Here is a flavour of what I mean:

 

“For example, many people incorrectly believe that Disability Living Allowance (DLA) is an income-replacement benefit for people who are unable to work due to disability.”

 

This comes from their own research … the words ‘they would say that wouldn’t they?’ spring to mind.

 

“The introduction of legislation, for example the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Equality Act 2010, to protect the interests of disabled people and prevent discrimination has helped many disabled people lead more independent lives.

 

What kind of evidence is there to support this claim?

 

“People are unclear about whether or not they are likely to qualify and there is evidence that people awarded DLA do not fully understand what the benefit is for. For example, some view the benefit as a form of compensation for being disabled, some don’t view themselves as disabled and others incorrectly believe that their DLA payments will stop if they return to work.”

 

The fact the current system is too complex, I would argue, is down to the administration of it not the basic framework of the benefit itself. Again, like poor workers blaming their tools, the DWP are shifting the blame for ‘not understanding the benefit’ onto claimants and away from the zealot gatekeepers at the DWP.

 

Finally,

 

“Evidence suggests that DLA can also act as a barrier to work 6, when it should enable people to lead independent lives, including having or getting a job. DLA is widely perceived to be an out-of-work benefit and receiving it appears to reduce the likelihood of being in employment, even after allowing for the impact of health conditions or impairments. There is evidence that people who receive DLA have lower work expectations.”

 

As I said it is difficult to challenge the nature of this evidence because of how it was collected, but I suspect many disabled people and their organisations would suggest this doesn’t reflect their knowledge or experience.

 

The sleight of hand

 

In my opinion there’s evidence of sleight of hand to go with the ‘doublespeak’; the crucial one being the description of the principle behind the payment of DLA and future PIP.

 

First of all Miller states:

 

“We are steadfast in our support for the principles of DLA, as a non-means-tested cash benefit contributing to the extra costs incurred by disabled people.”

 

However in the very next paragraph she writes:

 

“Personal Independence Payment will maintain the key principles of DLA, providing cash support to help overcome the barriers which prevent disabled people from participating fully in everyday life, but it will be delivered in a fairer, more consistent and sustainable manner.”

 

Within the consultation document itself we find another articulation:

 

“We need a benefit that helps contribute to the extra costs of living independently, in a way that is right for each individual.”

 

(Emphasis added in each quotation – BWF)

 

Providing a cash contribution to offset extra costs arising from living with an impairment, helping to remove disabling barriers to participation in every day life, and contributing to the extra costs of living independently, don’t necessary add up to mean the same thing.

 

How dare these arrogant people at the DWP talk about confusion with the existing DLA when their own document is a dog’s dinner? The question is whether or not this “muddle” is deliberate or just the work of people who are “not fit for purpose”? Either way, the methodology is utterly flawed.

 

The document states: “The benefit will continue to take account of the social model” – excuse me? The existing benefit tilts it head at acknowledging ‘disabling barriers’ but in no way could the processes currently in place be regarded as working within a ‘social model’ perspective! Let’s not beat about the bush, it is possible to talk about ‘disabling barriers’ whilst enacting policies and practices which are firmly based upon ‘the individual model of disability’ – local authorities and charities do it all the time. Often both disabled and non disabled people are guilty of crude reductionism when talking about “disabling barriers” and the basic analysis that flows from the social model of disability. Within the original social model disability was understood to be social restrictions that were placed on top of the impact of having an impairment.

 

The model therefore focused upon the ways in which the structures, systems and social enviroments within western capitalist society excluded oer marginalised people with impairments in mainstream society. I would argue these social restrictions are primarily organised at the macro level of society, but they are experienced often as ‘disabling barriers’ at the micro level. This said, I would argue that not all social restrictions take the form of a barrier to participation – a defined social activity. The social model makes a clear distinction between the nature and degree of an impairment, and the imposed social restrictions. Attitudes towards impairments might result in disabling barriers, but they can also produce social restrictions in terms of negative evaluations of disabled people’s lifestyles which go beyond being prevented from taking part in an activity.

 

In my opinion the ‘disabling barriers’ approach found within the consultation document has nothing to do with the social model approach – it risks imposing an over-determinist approach through the construction of lists of ‘disabling barriers’ existing at the mirco level of social interaction that certain types of disabled people may or may not expected to encounter. Why do I say this?

 

“The new benefit will have two components, linked to a range of activities that will be considered in the new assessment. One will be awarded on the basis of the individual’s ability to get around (the mobility component), the other on their ability to carry out other key activities necessary to be able to participate in daily life (the daily living component).”

 

If this were to happen, it would adopt a similar methodology to that found in the oppressive ESA assessment process. Disabled people would become the Pavlov dog’s of the 21st Century – no wonder they’ve cooked up a dog’s dinner, eh?

 

Another obnoxious and hypocritical part of this document – again proof of the Government’s disingenous nature – is the bankrupt idea that support should go to those “who face the greatest need”. Why do they insult us with this nonsense? How do you square ‘greatest need’ with enabling disabled people to fully participate within society?

 

What defines “need” within the the context of the ‘principles of the social model of disability’, Ms Miller? Why can’t this gutless “normies” be honest and call it “rationalisation” because every disabled person knows what the phrase “who face the greatest need” means; snot off the end of their noses for some and sweet FA for everybody else!

 

Once again the DWP relies on its own reseach to justify its claims:

 

 

“As it is difficult to measure costs objectively on an individual basis, DLA currently looks at ‘care’ and ‘mobility’ as proxies for the extra costs disabled people are likely to incur, giving priority to the people with the greatest care and mobility needs. Although these are important issues and reflect some disabled people’s biggest challenges, they do not necessarily remain the best proxies for cost. In fact, there is currently conflicting evidence on the factors that affect the extra costs that disabled people face in the 21st Century.”

 

Source: Review of the existing research on the extra costs of disability, 2005, DWP Working Paper 21. Review of the international evidence on the cost of disability, 2008, DWP Research Report 542.

 

The Consultation Questions

There are 22 questions within the document however I will only comment on a selected number.

 

1.       What are the problems or barriers that prevent disabled people participating in society and leading independent, full and active lives?

3.       What are the main extra costs that disabled people face?

 

Are these questions for real? How can they seriously expect a

meaningful response from people concerned with welfare reform by

the 14th February, 2011. Colin Barnes wrote a whole book that merely

touched the surface! Let’s be clear: this is a political honey trap. It is

not possible to produce a complex matrix which takes into account,

for example, a myriad of impairments and illnesses, the range of

personal experiences that relate to these. All the systems,

structures, social environments, cultures and attitudes that are

involved in disabled people’s social interactions (recognising too all

the equality strands) vis-à-vis participation within society.

 

The DLA focused upon personal care and mobility because they are the mainstay of human activity. If the DWP are claiming these are considered outdated, why haven’t they made more public their “evidence”? Come on Miller, either put your money where your mouth is – produce the goods – or sling yer hook!

 

4.      The new benefit will have two rates for each component:

 

• Will having two rates per component make the benefit easier to understand and administer, while ensuring appropriate levels of support?

• What, if any, disadvantages or problems could having two rates per component cause?

Why is there a consultation process if the DWP have pre-determined

the framework of the new benefit?

 

6. How do we prioritise support to those people least able to live full and active lives? Which activities are most essential for everyday life?

 

Surely this is not the same remit as meeting ‘the extra costs of living independently? Miller appears to moving the goalposts again with this question. Remember the Independent Living Fund; trying to be clever isn’t smart – we can see right through your shallowness!

 

8. Should the assessment of a disabled person’s ability take into account any aids and adaptations they use?

 

Depends on whether or not the DWP want to demonstrate their complete ignorance of the role aids and adaptations play in the lives

of disabled people – how many different ways does this Government want to penalise us?

 

11. An important part of the new process is likely to be a face-to-face discussion with a healthcare professional.

 

• What benefits or difficulties might this bring?

• Are there any circumstances in which it may be inappropriate to require a face-to-face meeting with a healthcare professional – either in an individual’s own home or another location?

 

Many disabled people know more about their medical conditions than

healthcare professionals – so why attempt to “medicalise” everyone’s experiences? So much for the ‘principles of the social model’!

 

Question 12 asks how the reviews be carried out? For example:

 

• Should there be different types of review depending on the needs of the individual and their impairment/condition?

 

Doesn’t this sit oddly with Question 11?

I could go on and on raising issues with question after question, but the end result would be the same: it’s all a pile of ill considered poo!

 

I have tried to stay focused and avoid flying into a rage, but it has proved difficult. There’s not a polite way to describe this consultation document and I would dearly love to personally return it to Maria Miller but doing to her what she and her Government are attempting to do to disabled people is clearly not the answer.

 

As soon as the festive season is over we must do all we can to turn the heat up on the Government and disablist lackeys at the DWP.

 

Bob Williams-Findlay

Bob William-Findlay

Bob Williams-Findlay

One of DPAC members, Bob Williams-Findlay, will be writing commentaries on issues arising from the budget cuts and the spending review. This is the first one on the DLA mobility component and people in residential care homes.

——————————–

Unexpectedly, George Osborne announced as part of the comprehensive spending review (CSR), that after four weeks inside a residential care home those who are state-funded residents would have their DLA mobility component removed. How has the Government sought to justify this policy change and would it be lawful?

The Department for Work and Pensions began by offering a two part rationale for this policy change. Firstly, they sought to argue that this would bring residents in line with hospital in-patients. This absurd argument demonstrates a high degree of both ignorance and prejudice; the mobility needs of the majority of people who live in residential homes can in no way be compared with those of hospital in-patients. It also indicates that the DWP want to impose ‘the sick role’ on certain groups of disabled people in order to paint others “economically active” when it suits the Government’s needs.

The DWP’s second argument, as equally absurd and bankrupt, suggested individual residents didn’t need the DLA mobility component because their needs were already being met by local authority funding for transport for care home residents. Let us consider what this really means. To begin with there is firm evidence to suggest that many care homes simply integrate the money into a single pot and therefore each home determines how much is spent on ‘days out’ or ‘necessary travel’ for residents. This implies that individual residents should have little or no control over their mobility needs; the expectation is to be totally ‘dependent’ on the home and more often than not have no independence in terms of going outside the home. This is to treat disabled people like convicted criminals and must call into question disabled residents’ rights under Articles 14,19, 20 and 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD, *see below) because it is a form of ‘house arrest’ and among other deprivations, denies them the right and opportunity to associate with whom they please. Are we going back to the days of ‘warehousing cripples’?

Disability minister Maria Miller said: “Local authority contracts with care homes are designed to cover services to meet all a resident’s assessed needs, including any mobility needs. So an individual’s care, support and mobility needs should be met by residential care providers from social care funding.”

Everybody knows that local authorities aren’t meeting these needs at present and with huge budget cuts, rises in VAT and petrol duty, it will be disabled people who are ‘out of sight, out of mind’ in residential homes; people with minimum or no direct contact with the ‘outside world’, who are going to be punished. John Nawrockyi, from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, acknowledges that, ‘With councils facing a 28% cut in government funding over the next four years they will struggle to maintain existing services, let alone fund new ones.’

In hard cold cash terms this policy change will result in saving £135m a year or in percentage terms just 0.2% of the public spending cuts announced in the CSR. Is this really a “fair price” for the loss of independence, freedom and choice of those on the end of state funding? This policy flies in the face of the approach found within the Convention on the Rights of Disabled People – it supports institutionalisation rather than independence, it is both callous and ill-liberal. Back to Victorian values and I’m in no doubt Osborne, Duncan Smith and Miller would’ve made ideal characters in a Charles Dickens’ novel.

-  Bob Williams-Findlay
* UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
from
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/disabilities-convention.htm


Article 14
Liberty and security of the person
1. States Parties shall ensure that persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others:

(a) Enjoy the right to liberty and security of person;

(b) Are not deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily, and that any deprivation of liberty is in conformity with the law, and that the existence of a disability shall in no case justify a deprivation of liberty.

2. States Parties shall ensure that if persons with disabilities are deprived of their liberty through any process, they are, on an equal basis with others, entitled to guarantees in accordance with international human rights law and shall be treated in compliance with the objectives and principles of this Convention, including by provision of reasonable accommodation

Article 19
Living independently and being included in the community
States Parties to this Convention recognize the equal right of all persons with disabilities to live in the community, with choices equal to others, and shall take effective and appropriate measures to facilitate full enjoyment by persons with disabilities of this right and their full inclusion and participation in the community, including by ensuring that:

(a) Persons with disabilities have the opportunity to choose their place of residence and where and with whom they live on an equal basis with others and are not obliged to live in a particular living arrangement;

(b) Persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community;

(c) Community services and facilities for the general population are available on an equal basis to persons with disabilities and are responsive to their needs.

Article 20
Personal mobility


States Parties shall take effective measures to ensure personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities, including by:

(a) Facilitating the personal mobility of persons with disabilities in the manner and at the time of their choice, and at affordable cost;

(b) Facilitating access by persons with disabilities to quality mobility aids, devices, assistive technologies and forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including by making them available at affordable cost;

(c) Providing training in mobility skills to persons with disabilities and to specialist staff working with persons with disabilities;

(d) Encouraging entities that produce mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies to take into account all aspects of mobility for persons with disabilities.

Article 30
Participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport

1. States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to take part on an equal basis with others in cultural life, and shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that persons with disabilities:

(a) Enjoy access to cultural materials in accessible formats;

(b) Enjoy access to television programmes, films, theatre and other cultural activities, in accessible formats;

(c) Enjoy access to places for cultural performances or services, such as theatres, museums, cinemas, libraries and tourism services, and, as far as possible, enjoy access to monuments and sites of national cultural importance.

2. States Parties shall take appropriate measures to enable persons with disabilities to have the opportunity to develop and utilize their creative, artistic and intellectual potential, not only for their own benefit, but also for the enrichment of society.

3. States Parties shall take all appropriate steps, in accordance with international law, to ensure that laws protecting intellectual property rights do not constitute an unreasonable or discriminatory barrier to access by persons with disabilities to cultural materials.

4. Persons with disabilities shall be entitled, on an equal basis with others, to recognition and support of their specific cultural and linguistic identity, including sign languages and deaf culture.

5. With a view to enabling persons with disabilities to participate on an equal basis with others in recreational, leisure and sporting activities, States Parties shall take appropriate measures:

(a) To encourage and promote the participation, to the fullest extent possible, of persons with disabilities in mainstream sporting activities at all levels;

(b) To ensure that persons with disabilities have an opportunity to organize, develop and participate in disability-specific sporting and recreational activities and, to this end, encourage the provision, on an equal basis with others, of appropriate instruction, training and resources;

(c) To ensure that persons with disabilities have access to sporting, recreational and tourism venues;

(d) To ensure that children with disabilities have equal access with other children to participation in play, recreation and leisure and sporting activities, including those activities in the school system;

(e) To ensure that persons with disabilities have access to services from those involved in the organization of recreational, tourism, leisure and sporting activities.

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