Plans to cut disability benefits could breach human rights laws, the government has been warned.

Ministers want to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new Personal Independence Payment.

The government says the changes are designed to streamline the system as well as make cuts of 20%.

Disability lawyer Mike Charles told the BBC the moves could be unlawful if they denied individuals the right to quality of life.

The change would mean new assessment tests for claimants who would also need to have had a condition for six months.

‘Equal playing field’

Mr Charles said: “The human rights act says individuals have a right to family life, have a right to a quality of life, the whole purpose of the DLA is to put them on an equal playing field with everyone else.

“Any proposal that fails to appreciate those fundamental rights could find it is an infringement of the law.

“My view is even if its not against the letter of the law, it is against the spirit of the law.”

More information at the BBC News.


DPAC video of protests

December 15, 2010

Hope you like it. Its not definitive – if I have time I will try to improve on it.

Thank you to Captain Ska for letting us use “Liar Liar” and photographers for the photos: Alison Wilde, Lynn Harrison, Debbie Jolly, Mikael Barnard and others. Thank you everyone for being there.

The new Housing Emergency Coalition has called a protest outside Downing St on Wednesday December 15th at 12 30 (or if you want to go en group – there is one setting off from Trafalgar Sq at 12 15)  – they want people to take cardboard boxes and sleeping bags and after the Downing St protest disabled people will move to Trafalgar Square for an alternative Nativity scene at 3pm. (free mince pies while they last and bring your borough name on a placard to be turned away by the inn keeper)
The Housing Emergency Coalition against the Housing Benefit cap and social cleansing start to demonstrate outside Downing Street at about 12.30. They want people to take sleeping bags and cardboard boxes emblazoned with Housing Emergency on them as props to show the consequences of the coalition’s plans.

Why is it important for you to come –

The future prognosis for housing following June’s budget and CSR is grim

• Already 30% of disabled people live below the poverty line and 1 in 4 families with disabled children can’t afford heating.

• The Chartered Institute of Housing has calculated that the cumulative effects of the coalition’s proposals mean that by 2020 every tenants’ Housing Benefit will be too low to cover their rent.

Proposed changes to Housing Benefits from April 2011

The size criteria will be adjusted to provide for an additional bedroom for a non-resident carer ( ie not a member of your family who shares your home) where a disabled customer has an established need for overnight care. This must be claimed for and will not be awarded automatically.

While this is a very small positive change it still totally fails to address Lack of an extra room for disabled children who need an extra bedroom, pensioner and other couples who need an extra room due to their medical needs, and a wide range of other disability related factors which mean disabled people need extra housing space including the need for space for dialysis, room to store equipment, room to use a wheelchair, ground-floor and level access accommodation. The recent DWP Select committee into LHA said that these factors were posing considerable barriers to independent living and should be addressed urgently but still have not been. In essence the overall proposed changes to LHA will simply increase these barriers.

Under 35s
Anyone under 35 years of age who is disabled but not in receipt of middle or higher rate DLA care component will not be able to claim for more than a shared room rate.

From October 2011

The Local Housing Allowance will be set at the 30th percentile rent in each Broad Market Rental Area, rather then the 50th percentile as now. Disabled people will only be able to afford to rent in the cheapest properties in an area, which are more than likely to be inaccessible.

This will also increase the difficulties disabled people face in finding suitable accommodation to live independently , increase homelessness amongst disabled people and push disabled people further into poverty especially if DLA recipients are cut by one-fifth as planned by DWP.

The proposed changes to the 30th percentile, rather then the median, rent being used to calculate LHA from October next year will only make these matters worse than they already are and will constitute serious breaches of UNCRPD particularly article 28, article 19,and article 7. New changes to our legislation should not be allowed to contravene these convention rights.

Longer term reforms

These will require primary legislation

from 2013-14 Local Housing Allowance and Housing Benefit rates will be upgraded in line with CPI ( Consumer Price Index) rather than on the basis of local rents. CPI does not include any account being taken of housing costs so this will result in the amount of money people can get to help pay their rents being even lower. At the same time this will apply to increases in other benefit rates and an estimate I have seen is that disabled people will be £300 per month worse off because of this.

Social Rented Sector
There are plans to remove any security of tenure from social housing tenants and to increase rents to 80% of market values. Together with the caps on Housing Benefits this will make renting in the social housing sector unaffordable in many higher priced areas of the country.

From 2013 housing benefit for working age social rented sector customers will be restricted for those who are occupying a larger property than their household size would warrant. This is something that the Labour government and DWP tried to introduce in Welfare Reform bill 2007 but were forced to drop by pressure from Housing Associations. It means that if you are living in an adapted property which may have cost thousands of pounds to adapt then if you also have an extra bedroom you have no apparent need for you will only get HB paid at the one bedroom rate.

Time limiting Housing Benefit customers who are claiming Job seekers allowance will only receive their full Housing Benefit award for a period of 12 months. After that their benefit will be reduced by 10% and they will continue to be ineligible for the full out of work Housing Benefit rate until after they have left the benefit system and been in work for a period.

This needs to be understood in conjunction with the work capability assessment for ESA which is designed to get as many disabled people as possible off Incapacity Benefit and into non-existent jobs which should be completed by 2013. therefore this will probably affect a lot of disabled people too.

Discretionary Housing Payments

Recognising the chaos their HB reforms are going to make the sum allocated by government has increased by £10 million in 2011 and by £40 million in 2012. This will apparently give more flexibility to local authorities but DHPs are not supposed to cover long term housing costs and have to be applied for every 13 weeks. There is no right of appeal if they are refused although you can seek a Judicial Review. Leicester for example has now introduced a policy where they will only pay for a maximum of 13 weeks during which time disabled people getting a DHP are harrassed to move to a cheaper property, regardless of their independent living needs.

Less important changes for disabled people who live outside of London, but disastrous for anyone living in London.

Local Housing Allowance levels will be restricted to the 4 bedroom rate. The 5 bedroom rate has been scrapped.

A new upper limit will be introduced
£250 a week for a one bedroom property
£290 a week for a2 bedroom property
£340 a week for a 3 bedroom property
£420 a week for a 4 bedroom property

According to government figures about 3-3,500 disabled people rent privately in central London. DPOs in London however have raised concerns that as the centre of London becomes unaffordable to most disabled people then there will be additional pressures on local councils for example in Brent where there is already a 10 year waiting list for re-housing as more people are forced to move.

Mortgage Interest changes
Changes to the amounts paid to mortgage interest for disabled claimants have been estimated to potentially lead to an additional 64,000 disabled people becoming homeless.

A Disabled constituent of Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton Pavilion, has emailed to her asking if the equality impact assessments of the coalition government’s policy decisions are available and whether or not she has seen them?

Ms Lucas, who represents the Green Party, answered by return email and stated that she had tabled a series of written parliamentary questions in the run up to the Comprehensive Spending review asking each department whether an equality impact assessment of their planned cuts had been conducted. None were able to produce such an assessment and all claim this work will be done at a later stage.

She told her Disabled constituent: “I do not think this is good enough and it makes clear that despite the government’s claim to have produced a fair budget there is no evidence for such a claim. On the contrary, as you know, cuts to the disability living allowance, to housing benefit and to employment support are distinctly unfair and will penalise the most vulnerable.”

Ms Lucas added: “The budget announced last month will destroy half a million jobs in the public sector, according to the Government’s own estimates. And the knock-on effects will be at least as many jobs lost in the private sector. Moreover, when those public sector workers find themselves out of work they will, along with disabled people, feel the full force of the additional £7 billion worth of cuts in welfare spending, on top of the £11 billion of cuts announced in June.

“The Chancellor talked a great deal about fairness but I think there is nothing fair about a budget that lets vital public services go to the wall, hitting the poorest hardest.”

Ms Lucas has spoken out about the cuts and has made the point that in the long term changes are neither cost effective nor fair. She has also spoken in the debate about housing benefit – to argue that cuts in this area will impact disproportionately on disabled people and that by crudely slashing help with mortgage interest payments in half the Government is potentially forcing thousands of disabled homeowners into arrears or homelessness.

Michelle’s speech is relevant to our campaign against the cuts and we salute her stand for inclusion, diversity and disability rights.

Thank you to Michelle Daley for giving permission to publish her speech at the UNISON 17th National Disabled Members’ Conference in Telford International Centre on Sunday 31st October

Michele Daley

Michele Daley

It gives me great pleasure to be speaking at your national disabled members‟ conference.
I have been asked to present on how to ensure disabled people’s inclusion and participation are preserved in the mainstream of society. This is a really important subject to disabled people who have been denied far too many opportunities but also it is a human rights issue.
I believe the concept of inclusion is such an important subject to all groups of people globally. Inclusion is in more than a theory it is about belonging and acceptance which plays an essential role to how society values, recognises individuals but also how different groups are represented.
I want to start my presentation by asking the question why disabled people are systematically excluded from society.
What I intend to do in my discussion is to draw on this question.
In order to go forward in our journey to achieve inclusion we have to go back in history as a way to understand our situation today.
History has taught society to regard disabled people as useless eaters, dependable and non-productive. It is for this reason we have been shut away in institutions or placed in segregated service provisions as a way to keep us disconnected from society.
Like other oppressed groups within society disabled people radicalised themselves to form mass movements to help to generate the uprising of Disabled People. It was important for them at that time to inform society about their unjust and inhuman treatment. They no longer wanted to be regarded as powerless, dependable and institutionalised.
Another important factor that I believe is pertinent to the root of our exclusion from society is to do with capitalism which I am sure I am not the first person to raise this point. As Marx said, “the ideas of the ruling class are the dominant ideas in society”
What this creates is a system based on the survival of the fittest. Vic Finkelstein a prominent figure within the Disabled Peoples Movement makes a interesting point when he says that:

“Our society is built on a competitive market foundation and it is this social system that disables us. From this point of view disabled people are forced to live in a social prison. While no one can object to campaigning for „rights‟ so that the prison in which we live is made more humane it is only a political buffoon who believes that exploring prisoner experiences can lead to emancipation! Nothing less than dismantling the prison and replacing it with a non-competitive form of society can break-down the doors which bar our emancipation”

I also want to draw our attention to another point made by Rachel Hurst (1996) who is also prominent figure within the UK Disabled Peoples Movement who presents in an discussion paper titled Disability & Policy – Survival of the Fittest says:

“What is common to all survival systems -whether based on the individual or the group – is the instinctive recognition of what makes good reproductive/survival material, how the best material can be obtained and rejection of anything different”

This experience continues to remain the situation for far too many disabled people who are shut away in segregated institutions for this very reason mentioned above.

I want to now look at another important point which I believe is crucial to our full inclusion and participation within society – this is the notion of equality. Al Sharpton (2010) a US Civil Rights activist in a recent speech talks about equality for everyone. He said that someone said to him that:

“… we got an African American president we‟ve achieved the dream of Dr. King. I told him that was not Dr. King’s dream… the dream was not to put one black family in the White House. The dream was to make everything equal in everybody‟s house.”

How many disabled people have you heard say something similar to this. You would hear comments like “we have accessible taxis, we have legislation” and so on… Yes, this is true we do have a few disabled people now sitting in parliament, yes we do have parts of an accessible transport system, yes our government has signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People and yes disabled people are now given the option in how they receive social care…
I recognise that there has been much progress made for disabled people and it would be silly of me not to say so. The grouping of oppressed groups within society have without a doubt contributed to cultural, social and political change on policy and legislation and many other changes disabled people and others are able to enjoy today.

Disabled people have made much progress in a number of areas for example in the area of Personalisation Agenda which gives disabled people greater choice and control over their support needs, improvement in Education where we have many more disabled people enjoying inclusive education as well as greater access to the public transport system.
I want to echo Sharpton’s (2010) point that is what these people have not understood, is we still do not have full equality. Let me raise another question that is how can we begin to contemplate thinking about our inclusion when we still have not achieved full equality?
In my opinion, I believe disabled people and others are dealing with a sophisticated way to which disabled people and others are excluded from society. Today society has become more advanced in the way it thinks and responds to difference. Society has become mindful about the way it implements services to make it look like it is not disadvantaging certain groups by using certain rhetoric language of equality.
Just to give an example of this which can be found in the Coalition Government ambition to “Building the Big Society” (Cabinet Office, n.d). The rhetoric of “Building the Big Society” is to imply fairness and improving opportunities (Cabinet Office, n.d). However as Saádia Neilson a good friend of mine who is Disability Equality Consultant said that it is “about scrutinizing people and giving them nothing”.

In another example in which services can exercise their right to exclude us is through the use of the word “reasonable” within Disability Discrimination Act / Equality Act 2010 which gives service providers the legal right to justify discrimination. How can disabled people ever have the same opportunity when the word “reasonable” is contrary to the core principle of inclusion?
A good friend of mine Jaspal Dhani, the Chief Executive of United Kingdom Disabled People’s Council (UKDPC) has often said to me “Daley” that‟s what he refers to me as, in our numerous conversations about disability politics and other equality issues he says to me “I do not think it‟s “reasonable” for disabled people to be denied the same opportunities to access all areas of mainstream society.” I reply by saying “I agree”. I believe that we disabled people have to preserve the positive aspects of the work that has been achieved to bring about changes for disabled people. We must continue to work at all levels to share our experiences both past and present within society to help further influence changes.
We have the UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People and this supports the inclusion of disabled people we must use this to help strengthen the struggle for full inclusion and our participation within society.
Contradictory to UN Convention on the Rights of Disabled People in my opinion, I believe is the recent Comprehensive Spending Review 2010
(HM Treasury, 2010) which has severely disadvantaged many disabled people and other group of individuals. A number of disabled people‟s Organisations have analysed this Spending Review and put out information papers to share their concerns about it.
Inclusion London analysis of the Comprehensive Spending Review made a pertinent point that is significant to our subject of ‘inclusion’. They said:

“The spending plans represent a choice: a choice to make disabled people and others who are among the poorest in society, already facing enormous discrimination and inequality, pay for an approach to deficit reduction which is riddled with the risk of creating a double dip recession”

When I think about this statement at a deeper level, the reality is that choices for disabled people are limited. Choice is an integral aspect of the principle of inclusion – it is about increasing people‟s freedom and opportunity to improve their life chances. However if we continue to have limited choices made available to us, our opportunities to achieve equality of opportunity will continue to be seriously limited. What this means is that our full inclusion is being threatened.
There has been much progress made by disabled people to improve the quality of service delivery and accessibility to the built environment.
However the spending review seems to have taken disabled people backwards in their journey for full inclusion within society.
I am horrified that individuals living in residential settings will no longer receive mobility component of Disability Living Allowance. Straight away this takes away an individual‟s freedom and liberty to move about freely.
If equality is about having the same opportunities as others and my non-disabled sister can access public transport but I cannot, I believe that I have been discriminated against but also I do not have same opportunity to equally participate within society. By me not having full access to all parts of the public transport system results in me being excluded from being able to enjoy certain parts of society – this is unfair!
I like everyone else want to be included in society in a full way, something which is being denied to me and other disabled people.
What this tells me is that equality and diversity are immutably connected to the fundamental principles of inclusion which is about designing systems that allow everyone the same opportunity to participate.
As I come to the end of my presentation I believe that the words of our disabled activists and also the disabled people‟s movement must be
preserved because their words are around our emancipation and social change. We must never allow their words to die.
Even in these difficult times where the recession has resulted in many disabled people losing their jobs, cuts in budgets, weakening in legislations and so on, your involvement has never ever been so important in helping to strengthen the voices of disabled people struggle to address our inequality and unfair treatment experienced by disabled people.
We must preserve solidarity in unity to voice that full inclusion is a human rights issue. Therefore we must reject patch work implementation of equality because this can never achieve our full inclusion in society.

1. Cabinet Office. (n.d) Building the Big Society.
2. Inclusion London. (2010) Comprehensive Spending Review and disabled people: a brutal attack on equality. Key points in the CSR and their implications for Deaf and disabled people in London.
3. Finkelstein, V. (2001) The Social Model of Disability Repossessed.
4. Hurst, R. (1996) Disability & Policy – Survival of the Fittest.
5. HM Treasury. (October, 20 2010) Spending Review 2010
6. Red Disability. (n.d) All in it together ?.
7. Sharpton, A. (May 2010) Explains His Obamunist Dream Of Equality.