Letter to Margaret Curran, shadow minister for disabled people
January 29, 2011
Dear Margaret Curran,
We are writing to you as an organisation of disabled people concerned with what seems to be a sustained, unjustified and vicious attack against disabled people.
As shadow minister for disabled people we seek reassurances from you that you will support disabled people to be able to continue to live independently in the community and that you will work to prevent more and more disabled people being thrust even further into poverty.
We feel that these aims are fully in line with the United Nations Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities which has been ratified by the UK government.
Our main concerns are
• there should be a continuing commitment to provide the additional financial support disabled people need to meet the extra costs of their disability provided through Disability Living Allowance. We note with grave concern plans by the coalition government to arbitrarily remove one in five DLA claimants and that even for those disabled people who currently have been awarded DLA for life there will now be an expensive, unnecessary, and bureaucratic reassessments.
• Plans to remove the mobility component of DLA from 80,000 disabled people living in residential care homes can only be described as heartless and as you are aware will deny disabled people their convention rights to a family life. Removing this benefit amounts to a reduction in income for residents of 60%. We would also like the government to explain to us what will happen to those disabled people who use this money to purchase decent wheelchairs that meet their needs. Will anyone who has the mobility component removed from them also have their wheelchairs repossessed?
• Of particular concern in relation to independent living is the loss of funding from the Independent Living Fund which will be removed from 21,000 of the most severely disabled people by 2015 in spite of the fact that the coalition government promised they would protect this group of disabled people from cuts. Together with the unprecedented reductions to social services budgets this will result in independent living being impossible. In Warwickshire it is estimated that one-third of disabled people will lose their entitlement to free care, yet since only substantial and critical care needs are met these will be disabled people with the highest care needs. Failure to provide the care such people need is ultimately likely to result in them instead needing more complex and expensive health care. The admission of disabled people into inappropriate residential care due to lack of funding for independent living would further be much more expensive for the state to provide than to continue to adequately fund care in the community through the Independent Living Fund and social care provision.
It is totally unacceptable to us that any disabled person as is now the case in Kensington and Chelsea should be refused night-time care and instead be issued with incontinence pads and waterproof sheets. This is a total and utter abuse of disabled people’s right s and dignity.
• The continuing lack of transportability of care packages across county boundaries further makes it virtually impossible for disabled people to move, either to seek employment, to find more suitable, or even cheaper accommodation or to move nearer to family and friends who may be able to offer support. We would therefore welcome a commitment from you to support a national care service where an individual care package would be easily transportable.
• While we welcome some of the moves to help disabled people who are able to seek work to find suitable employment we remain concerned that there are no real mechanisms in place to remove any of the considerable barriers disabled people face in being able to find and keep employment. Certainly the recent cuts to Access to Work funding will in no way contribute to facilitating getting more disabled people into sustainable employment.
Moving 1 million disabled people from Incapacity Benefit onto JSA in the midst of a recession and rising unemployment predicted in both public and private sectors while doing nothing to remove any of the barriers that exist and prevent disabled people gaining work is unacceptable to us. For most disabled people Incapacity Benefit is a contributory benefit which they are entitled to through having paid National Insurance contributions whilst working.
We are further very concerned that no consideration seems to have been given to how fluctuating impairments can effect disabled individuals and that they may as a result of this find themseleves subjected to having their benefits sanctioned if they are unable to meet the conditions imposed on them in seeking work. While we welcome any support we therefore feel that sanctions should not be used against disabled people.
The emphasis on ‘working’ means the needs of those disabled people who will never be able to work are not being fully met. The considerable input from disabled people into the voluntary sector is further ignored.
Heavily criticised ESA assessments which ignore GP and consultant views are earning Atos healthcare £100 million a year, how can this amount of money be justified?
• Already 30% of disabled people live in poverty yet the bulk of the plans outlined by the coalition government in relation to Housing Benefits will exacerbate these levels of poverty further.
There is a continuing dire shortage of accessible social housing throughout the UK with one in four disabled people living in properties they are unable to get into and out of.
In Stratford-on-Avon constituency there is such a shortage of social housing that people are helped to rent in the private sector yet the reduction of Local Housing Allowance to the 30th percentile rent from October 2011 will mean that poverty amongst disabled people renting in this sector will soar, as is the case elsewhere in the country. In many London boroughs the waiting list for social housing is over 10 years.
Further no consideration is given to the difficulties faced by disabled people in finding suitable accommodation to meet a range of needs. For example a wheelchair user may need a larger and therefore more expensive property to meet their needs, someone with a visual impairment would find moving elsewhere very difficult, anyone with a learning disability may take several years to learn to find their way around an area and needs to have continuity of care and support.
All of these additional difficulties mean that for disabled people it is impossible to move to the cheapest properties in an area. Since disabled people are more likely to suffer disability hate crime living in the most deprived areas of towns and cities these actions are also likely to result in an increase in such crimes. Yet another breach of human rights under UNCRPD.
The plans to remove disabled people from social housing that is larger then their current needs dictate from 2013 is flawed. From a financial point of view since many disabled people who are currently living in a social housing property with an extra bedroom have had extensive adaptations made which in order for them to be able to continue living independently would then need to be done and funded yet again if they are forced to move by Housing Benefit being restricted to a one bedroom rate.
Further plans to extend the single room rate to anyone under 35 years of age unless they are in receipt of the higher or middle rate of DLA will affect many younger disabled people with Mental Health conditions, neuro-diverse conditions, and learning difficulties, Precisely those disabled people who need secure accommodation with a reasonable level of privacy. These cuts according to a recent DWP select committee report will result in a difference of an average £47 a week between the HB rates for a one bedroom flat compared to a room in multiple occupancy.
The same DWP select committee has expressed concerns over plans to reduce Housing Benefit for claimants who are out of work for over 12 months. As the select committee point out it is not until you have been out of work for 12 months that people are able to even try to access additional support to find work. Given the additional and substantial barriers that disabled people face in finding work at all this proposed change will impact very badly on them.
The coalition government have said that they have increased the amount of money available through Discretionary Housing Payments to help with such costs however a report by the Mayor of London shows that demand for DHPs will be 4 times higher than the extra amount of money made available to claimants, Further many councils do not pay DHPs for longer then 13-26 weeks and there is no right of appeal against being refused one.
We would be happy to brief you further on any of these issues and would like to leave you to consider a message from one of our members.
“Yes you, and you and you, all of you who stand by and say nothing or encourage such vicious and undeserving attacks are just as responsible for what is happening.
Those who stand by and allow this are equivalent to those who stood by when disabled people and Jews were targeted by the Nazi’s for annihilation.
Too harsh for you?
Its our lives we are fighting for, our very lives, some have already killed themselves due to what is happening, many more are considering it.
Will you stand by?”
Anne Novis MBE
We look forward to receiving your response which we will publish for our members.
Historically, disabled people have been excluded from or marginalised within mainstream social activities. As a result we are often viewed as passive and dependent receivers of charity and services. Disabled people believe we have a right to self-determination and therefore need to take the leading role in decisions that directly affect our lives. This is why we insist on there being
“Nothing about us without us”.
Disabled people are providing growing evidence that councils across the country are cutting the support they need to live independently. A disabled man in Dudley said the council had been cutting people’s support after moving them from direct payments to personal budgets. He said: “People who were on direct payments and are now on personal budgets are talking about a 33 to 50 per cent cut, but probably closer to 50 per cent. That is based on what a lot of disabled people are telling us.
In another urban borough, a disabled man, David has been given a package of four hours a week over four visits, plus one night visit a week. Another man in the same borough with a similar level of support need, who died earlier this year, had been receiving 24-hour support. David’s partner said she was told by a social worker: “If it had been so many months earlier he would have got it [24-hour care], but they have cut the packages and at the moment this is what we can offer…because of the cuts.”
A manager working for the borough’s centre for independent living said: “ It is looking like it is going backwards from community care. It could be that people will be going into nursing homes.”
Disabled people in the London borough of Brent say they have also been told by their council that they will have their hours halved from next November. She said “They are scared, they are really scared. They don’t know what is going to happen.”
Anthony from Camden faces a range of environmental barriers which mean that he needs someone available to support him 24 hours per day whereas his local authority alleges that he can manage with just 11 hours per day support. When he was at university he was able to get the kind of support he needs, whereas now his local authority are effectively telling him to “cope” in an unsafe and highly restrictive environment.
Meanwhile, the Coalition on Charging has pointed to evidence that disabled and older people and carers are being hit disproportionately by spending cuts in local authorities, with some councils planning to restrict access to support and raise service charges.
30 September 2010 News provided by John Pring at http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com
Meanwhile we are hearing of more and more disabled people who are thinking of killing themselves because they feel that their lives will no longer be worth living.
“I am in receipt of DLA, without which I could not survive. I have severe allergies, home bound, mostly bedridden. I have carers, and have to pay for extra hours not subsidized by social services. My utility bills are extremely high, and I have to contribute to the rent, which is not met by housing benefits. I also suffer from malnutrition!! Being chronically ill is costly, being depending on carers for everything.
Cutting DLA would mean, that I have to find housing within the Housing Allowance which is much much lower than rental market. There are pockets of housing, in undesirable areas, with mould and cockroaches, and no amenities, no lift, or if on the ground floor, simply not safe.
I could go on and on, about the misery it would cause, to remove DLA.
It would lead to a slow death painful death. Worth adding here, I have spoken to many in my situation, who are discussing mass suicide, rather than suffer more health miseries, for which there are no cures! They are not depressed, but pragmatic about what awaits all of us.” October 11, 2010
“I am disabled with both physical and mental health problems. For months now, I have been worried sick about all the benefit cuts due to happen, wondering how I will live and survive and sinking further and further into depression so severe, I am one of those who feels suicide would be the only way out.
Having heard David Cameron’s speak about protecting the sick, old and vulnerable, I could feel my jaw drop to the floor in sheer disbelief at the lies coming out of his mouth. Not only am I worried about meeting my bills, the medical re-assessments despite being awarded DLA indefinately, but I have now after 7yrs of having direct payments been told I must pay £200 per month towards my care. The government are now doing a complete u-turn and as mentioned above, this will kill people.”