PIP assessment lies and distortions exposed by double apology to claimant

A disabled teacher has told how a government contractor apologised to him for a dishonest benefit assessment, and then had to apologise again after it ordered a replacement assessment which was even worse.

He says his experience is a damning indictment of the assessment process introduced by the government for its new personal independence payment (PIP), and raises fresh concerns about one of its key social security reforms, just a day before the general election.

The teacher, David*, has accused the government of “institutional discrimination” over the way it dealt with his PIP claim.

Disability News Service (DNS) has seen both of the letters written by the discredited outsourcing giant Atos, in which the company apologises for the failings in each of the two assessments.

Despite a lengthy investigation into widespread dishonesty within the PIP assessment system, which has now produced more than 200 cases of concern, this is the first time DNS has heard of a PIP contractor apologising for its failings in both an initial face-to-face assessment and a second assessment ordered because of the flaws in the first one.

David has now finally been awarded PIP at the enhanced rate for both mobility and daily living for the next 10 years, following his eight-month struggle in the face of what he says has been institutional discrimination by both the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and its contractor, Atos.

His battle began last August, when there was a significant worsening of his health (he has ME).

He was claiming the standard mobility rate of PIP at the time and asked DWP to review his award.

As a result, he and his wife attended a face-to-face assessment in November, which was carried out by a nurse.

David said: “The so-called health professional fired one leading question after another at me.

“When he did not get the response he wanted, he would repeat the question again and I would try and repeat my initial answer.

“The question would be asked again until he got a response that he wanted.”

After half an hour, David was so exhausted that he had his head in his hands, resting on the nurse’s desk, and he had to ask for a break to take medication.

He said: “The questions continued unabated. By the end of the assessment, I felt as if I’d been in a fight, and just had one desire: to go home to bed and take more painkillers.”

Despite the ordeal, when he received DWP’s decision he was told he did not qualify for any level of PIP, even though his condition had worsened since his last assessment.

He complained in writing, and then had to complain again after DWP said it had no record of his original letter. In the meantime, DWP turned down his initial appeal through the mandatory reconsideration process.

In February, Atos admitted that David’s assessment had not been up to standard and that he would be given a second assessment.

The second assessment took place the following month, this time at his home, and was carried out by a paramedic.

But when David – who lost his job earlier this year as a result of his health condition – received a copy of the report two weeks later, it left him in tears.

He said: “I could not believe the lies, distortions and omissions of things I had told her.

“The consultants’ reports that I had given her were not even mentioned.

“She did, however, mention that the report from the November assessment, which had been described by two Atos managers as unsatisfactory, was part of the evidence that she had considered.

“I felt incredibly upset at not being believed a second time. I thought the first rule of medicine was to do no harm.

“Obviously, the health professionals working for Atos seemed to have forgotten what the word ‘ethics’ means.”

Again, DWP found him ineligible for PIP, based on the Atos assessment report.

For several weeks, David was too ill to think about his PIP claim. But when his health improved, he took the new report apart line by line and submitted a four-page complaint to Atos.

A few weeks later, he received written responses from Atos to both of his complaints, one about the first assessment and the other about the second, both apologising for their errors.

One letter noted that David had found the first assessment report to be “inaccurate and misleading” and that he had stated that the assessor had “attempted to lead your answers by asking questions a number of different ways”.

The letter informed him that a senior Atos medical advisor had concluded that it had been “insufficiently detailed and based upon information which dated from 2014 and earlier dates”, and offered “sincere apologies for any distress which may have been caused”.

The second letter was even more damning, noting that the first assessment should not have been considered as evidence by the second assessor, that the paramedic ignored consultants’ reports she had been shown by David, while other documents “have not been fully considered”.

It also concluded that the assessor had made other “mistakes and contradictions”, although “there is no evidence to suggest this was deliberate”.

The letter then concludes that there were “many inaccuracies and omissions within the report and [further medical evidence] has not been fully considered”, while there were “clear inconsistencies and contradictions within the report”.

Three days later, David received a letter from DWP, telling him he had been awarded PIP at the enhanced rate for daily living and mobility for 10 years.

A DWP spokeswoman claimed yesterday (Tuesday) that there was “no evidence that any of the assessment reports were dishonest” and that the department expected “the highest standards from the contractors who carry out PIP assessments.

“We do not accept it to be the case that there is dishonesty amongst them.”

DWP has declined to apologise to David or express any regret for his experience, but the spokeswoman said: “Atos has apologised to [David] and acknowledged that the assessment reports for his claim were not suitable.”

She said that there had been more than two million PIP decisions since its launch in 2013, of which seven per cent had been appealed and three per cent overturned, while 26 per cent of claimants were receiving the highest rate of support, compared to 15 per cent under disability living allowance, the benefit PIP is replacing for working-age claimants**.

However, these appeal figures are likely to be seen as highly misleading, because DWP’s own figures show there have been more than 550,000 mandatory reconsiderations – the internal DWP process that all claimants have to go through before appealing to an independent tribunal – registered since PIP’s launch.

The DWP spokeswoman said: “As we’ve previously said, our providers are committed to providing a high-quality, sensitive and respectful service by conducting fair, accurate and objective assessments.

“Independent audit is in place to ensure advice provided to DWP decision makers is of suitable quality, fully explained and justified.

“We expect the highest standards from the contractors who carry out PIP assessments and we work extensively with them, and disability representative groups, to make improvements.”

She said DWP’s response to Paul Gray’s second independent review of PIP “will be published in due course”.

But David believes his experience highlights the government’s “war” on poor and disabled people, and shows the need for widespread reform of PIP, an end to the use of private outsourcing companies to carry out assessments, and an inquiry into the rampant dishonesty by Atos and Capita healthcare assessors that the DNS investigation has uncovered.

And he has called on other PIP claimants to “never give up fighting”.

He said: “No matter how many times you are turned down, no matter what lies are said about you in Atos reports, don’t let it get you down.”

He said claimants should turn their “dejection, anxiety, stress and anger” over a dishonest assessment report into action by writing a letter of complaint, and ensuring it is sent by recorded delivery.

He said: “You cannot expect to be treated with respect. You cannot expect fair treatment.

“You can expect: to be treated with disdain, to not be believed, the medical evidence you provide to be ignored.”

He added: “The benefits system is on the front lines of the class war against the disabled poor.

“We must stand together to give disabled people the help, encouragement and support necessary to fight for the benefits that they are entitled to.”

*Not his real name

**DWP figures obtained by DNS in April showed that nearly half of claimants subject to “planned reviews” of their PIP eligibility were having their existing award either cut or removed completely, while DWP figures last year showed that only seven in 10 people previously claiming DLA were being found eligible for PIP when they were reassessed for the new benefit, which was announced in 2010 by George Osborne as a cost-cutting measure.

7 June 2017

 

 

Labour pledges ‘transformation’ of social security as it fleshes out disability policies

Labour has pledged to “transform” the social security system and to set out a bill to repeal cuts to disabled people’s benefits within a year, in one of the headline measures of a mini-manifesto devoted solely to disability issues.

The document, Nothing About You, Without You, was launched last weekend in Manchester, and expands on policies laid out in the party’s main election manifesto, as well as including some new pledges*.

One of these is a promise to develop a network of “independent living hubs”, which would “be run by disabled people, foster independence, facilitate peer or advocacy support” and provide practical support.

This mirrors the pledge made by the Labour government in its Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People report in 2005, which called for every area to have “a user-led organisation modelled on existing CILs [centres for independent living]”.

The party has told Disability News Service (DNS) that it will ensure local authorities have the resources to create these hubs, although decisions on whether to set them up will be made locally.

There is also a promise to halve the disability employment gap, a pledge originally made by the Conservative party in 2015 but now dropped from its latest manifesto after the government made little or no progress towards achieving the target over the last two years.

Labour has so far declined to say how long it would take to halve the gap, other than “as soon as possible”.

The disability manifesto also says that local public sector or voluntary organisations would carry out the new “personalised, holistic” assessments that it previously announced would replace the heavily-criticised work capability assessment and personal independence payment (PIP) assessment.

Labour’s disability manifesto is the product of a series of disability equality roadshows held across the country over the last six months, a process headed by the shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams, with the party stressing that it has been produced “with and for disabled people”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said disabled people had been “demonised and dehumanised by the Conservative’s devastating cuts and a social security system which punishes, rather than supports, disabled people”.

He said: “Labour will ensure that disabled people and people with mental health conditions have access to the support they need and will work with disabled people to build an inclusive society, where no one is held back from fulfilling their potential and realising their aspirations.”

Much of the document is devoted to attacking the record of the Conservatives in government over the last seven years, while there are few details about the policies Labour is proposing.

One such example is its pledge to “build more accessible and disabled-friendly new homes” as part of a commitment to build 100,000 new affordable homes every year.

When DNS asked what proportion of these homes would be built to Lifetime Homes standard and how many would be wheelchair-accessible, the party said this would be “needs-led”, although a Labour government would make funding available for councils to “assess and fully meet local needs”.

Despite the lack of detail in the disability manifesto, there are many statements of principle – and some firm policies – that are likely to attract disabled voters.

The document pledges to deliver an education strategy that is “inclusive”, and says a Labour government would replace the current assessment for the new education, health and care plans – introduced under the coalition government’s Children and Families Act 2014 – an eligibility test that Labour says is being used to restrict support to “all but those with the most severe needs”.

The disability manifesto also promises to “change the culture of the social security system, from one that demonises sick and disabled people to one that is supportive and enabling” and is “efficient, responsive, and provides basic support”.

It also promises “stronger laws and proper enforcement of the Equality Act” to protect disabled people from discrimination at work and when applying for jobs, and says there will be a new right to flexible working for “employees with an impairment or chronic condition”.

There is a pledge to ensure university courses are accessible to disabled students, “including through scrapping tuition fees, [and providing] course support and support for living costs” – although there is no mention of whether a Labour government would reverse Tory cuts to disabled students’ allowance – and another to increase the number of disabled apprentices.

And there is a pledge to provide “seed corn funding” to develop local organisations offering “supportive” employment for disabled people who cannot participate in mainstream work.

It says that an example of the kind of enterprises that might benefit is Enabled Works, in Leeds, a workers’ co-operative that was set up following the closure of the Leeds and Pontefract Remploy factories.

On public transport, the disability manifesto promises to stop the expansion of driver-only operated trains, because “guards are essential for allowing disabled passengers access to trains”, while Labour will reverse the cut to the funding of the Access to All rail station access improvement programme, first revealed by Disability News Service last year.

There is also a promise to “open up democracy” to disabled people, by ensuring that the party’s own disabled members can “participate fully in all local party activities, and that there is a fair and accessible selection process for all candidates for local, regional and national levels of political office”.

The disability manifesto pledges to make “reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates in recognition of the additional costs that they face”.

But there is no mention of reopening the Access to Elected Office Fund, which provided funding for the extra costs faced by disabled candidates seeking election to parliament and local councils, and was closed by the Conservative government after the 2015 election.

*One of the only analyses of Labour’s disability manifesto to be published so far, by disabled activist David Gillon, can be found here

7 June 2017

 

 

Four questions on disability the Conservatives refuse to answer

The Conservatives are entering tomorrow’s general election without answering four key questions about their disability policies on social care, forced institutionalisation and welfare reform.

Last week, the minister for disabled people, Penny Mordaunt, refused an interview with Disability News Service (DNS) and then failed to respond to questions submitted by email.

The party’s press office has this week again failed to answer important questions from DNS in four key areas.

One question the party – and Mordaunt herself – has refused to answer is whether there will be any further cuts to disability benefits in the next parliament.

The manifesto promises only that the party has “no plans for further radical welfare reform” in the next parliament, but stops short of ruling out any further cuts to disability benefits, and warns that a Conservative government would continue to ensure a “sustainable” welfare system, with help “targeted at those who need it most”.

On social care, there is still no clarity from the party on its policy on charging for adult social care for working-age disabled people.

The prime minister, Theresa May, was forced to announce a cap on lifetime care charges – although no suggestion of what level this would be set at – in addition to the manifesto’s pledge that every care-user would be able to retain at least £100,000 of their assets and savings.

But the manifesto was focused solely on care for older people, and following her U-turn the party has refused to say what it has in mind for working-age disabled people, who make up about a third of social care service-users.

Younger disabled people pay more in care charges than older people and will have had less time – and in some cases no time at all – to build up any savings.

Mordaunt has also dodged questions about her views on the forced institutionalisation of disabled people.

Concerns about her views arose after she was asked by the campaigning website Disability United if she opposed forcing disabled people into institutions, and what protections she would put in place for those facing such a threat.

In her answer, she said that a decision about whether to institutionalise somebody against their will was “rightly a matter for medical professionals, and decisions should be made on the grounds of individual safety and health”.

That answer raised serious questions about her commitment to the rights of disabled people to live in their own homes, even if she misunderstood – or chose to ignore – the issue Disability United was trying to raise, about the threat of disabled people being institutionalised purely on the grounds of cost.

The party has also refused to say whether Mordaunt misled last week’s disability hustings event when she claimed that another Tory government would “dismantle” the work capability assessment.

She told the event: “We have managed to get into the manifesto a legislative commitment to dismantle the work capability assessment.”

But that commitment is not mentioned anywhere in the Conservative manifesto, and is also not in the government’s work, health and disability green paper, which talked instead about improving the WCA, and suggested the WCA could be used just to decide eligibility for financial support.

The party had failed to respond to the latest requests for clarification on these four questions by 11am today (Wednesday).

7 June 2017

 

 

DPAC targets marginal seats with quartet of films on austerity impact

Anti-cuts activists have produced four films that show the impact of austerity on disabled people, in a bid to boost Labour’s chances in 50 marginal constituencies in the run-up to election day.

Each of the short films being used by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) features a disabled person who has been personally affected by cuts imposed by the Conservatives in government.

DPAC is hoping the films will be shared widely through social media, but it is also spending thousands of pounds to promote them through Facebook adverts targeted at about 50 marginal constituencies being fought over by Labour and the Conservatives.

In one of the films, David Hooke describes how his health and that of his brother – they both have mental health conditions – has worsened as a result of the government’s system of benefit assessments.

He says his brother now leaves their flat less often and has more frequent panic attacks because of his assessment experiences, and adds: “He’s more worried about what’s going to happen with his money.

“It’s always, ‘Are they going to cut my money, are they going to cut my money?’ And I have to lie to him and say no.”

Jenny Sealey, artistic director and chief executive of Graeae Theatre Company, describes in another of the films how government cuts to Access to Work (AtW) mean she will lose 60 per cent of the AtW support she currently uses to pay for interpreters.

A cap on payments was introduced for new AtW claimants in 2015 and is due to affect existing claimants like Sealey from April 2018, limiting annual AtW awards to one-and-a-half times the average salary.

In another film, Andria, a disabled single parent who has several long-term mental and physical health conditions, describes how she has had repeated face-to-face meetings over the last five years with Department for Work and Pensions staff and employees of the government contractor Atos.

She highlights the billions of pounds wasted on benefits assessments and the appeals process.

She says: “The most important thing that has happened is that my health has really, really deteriorated as a result of going through this process where I live in utter fear each and every day of becoming completely impoverished, while I’m in this state, trying to raise a daughter, pretty much on my own.”

The fourth film hears from Jenny Hurst, who works as a personal budget coordinator for Action on Disability, in Kensington and Chelsea, London.

She says that she could have to quit her job because AtW is forcing her to contribute £5,000 towards the powerchair she uses at work.

Linda Burnip, a DPAC co-founder, said the “powerful” films showed “how ridiculous the claims are that [the Conservatives] are helping disabled people into work or they want to support disabled people”.

She said the Facebook campaign would cost more than £5,000, with most of that coming from DPAC’s existing funds, as well as about £1,500 donated by unions in the last few weeks.

In total, DPAC expects to spend about £10,000 on the election campaign, including funding travel to events, organising meetings, paying for the Facebook adverts, and printing stickers and about 15,000 leaflets that have been shared around the country.

She said DPAC felt that the Facebook adverts were “an easy way to reach a large number of people who are not our normal supporters”.

She said DPAC had decided that it was a “now or never moment” to either use the funds or “sit back and regret it” if the Tories won the election.

And she thanked all those who had contributed “time, effort or money” to the campaign.

The films were produced free of charge by film-maker Anthony Swords and his media production company Tough and Rumble.

Swords said at the launch of the films in the marginal constituency of Croydon Central this week that he had wanted to target “soft Tory voters or swing voters, middle England, who aren’t aware of what’s happened” to disabled people.

Burnip said almost nothing had been said by disability charities during the election campaign, partly because of their fears of breaching the Conservative government’s Lobbying Act 2014, which restricts what they can say in the lead-up to an election.

This week, more than 50 charities wrote to party leaders to raise serious concerns about the act and to call on the next government to reform it.

7 June 2017

 

 

Rudd refuses to apologise over ‘£50 billion disability welfare’ TV debate ‘lie’

The Conservatives have refused to apologise after home secretary Amber Rudd “lied” in a televised general election debate about the amount of money the government spends on disability benefits.

Rudd, who was standing in for prime minister Theresa May – who had refused to take part in the debate on BBC1 last Wednesday – claimed the “welfare bill” for disabled people had risen to £50 billion.

She had been responding to a comment from the deputy leader of the SNP, Angus Robertson, who had said: “Some of those people on the lowest incomes have been massively hit by welfare cuts, and I think the time has come to end punishing disabled people, end the bedroom tax, and leaving people with the lowest incomes with too little to pay for the essentials.”

Rudd responded: “On the direct point of payments to help people who are disabled, we are a party who will always support those in most need, and the welfare bill for helping people on disabilities has gone up seven billion in the past seven years and is now at 50 billion.”

The figure of £50 billion is one that work and pensions ministers have previously used to exaggerate the amount spent on disability and sickness benefits when criticised about the impact of their austerity cuts and welfare reforms.

Last November, the work and pensions secretary Damian Green told MPs that the government was “spending £50 billion a year on disability benefit, which shows that we want a practical system that cares for people with a disability”.

He had made a similar claim on his own website in March, when he argued that the government was “committed to supporting those most in need, and currently spends around £50 billion every year on benefits alone to support people with disabilities or health conditions”.

But the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) own figures – based on a freedom of information response secured by Disability News Service 18 months ago, and subsequent DWP spending figures – show that spending in 2015-16 came to about £37 billion at the most.

The figure only reaches £50 billion by including spending on areas such as adult social care, concessionary travel and disabled facilities grants.

DNS approached the Conservative party press office to ask if Rudd or the party would correct the figure and apologise for deliberately inflating the number in a live debate just a week before the election, but it has refused to comment.

7 June 2017

 

 

DPAC protesters march through May’s constituency to highlight austerity impact

Activists have taken to the streets of the prime minister’s constituency to highlight the impact of Tory austerity cuts on disabled people over the last seven years.

The protest by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) in the centre of Maidenhead, Berkshire, saw about 30 disabled activists and their allies march from Maidenhead rail station to the town’s high street.

The concerns of campaigners who took part reflected those that have been raised by disabled people across the country, with protesters speaking of losing support as a result of the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), of how friends had lost their Motability vehicles after a person independence payment (PIP) assessment, and how they had been subjected to disability hate crime in their own local high street.

Dave Jurgensen told Disability News Service (DNS) that the ILF closure had led to his care charges increasing by 400 per cent, meaning he now had to pay an extra £250 a month.

He is also forced to reply on neighbours to provide him with the support he needs at weekends, and can no longer afford to visit the gym.

He said: “I came because it’s time for the Tories to leave.

“Every year they keep on making promises for a better Britain… but the country gets worse, and a lot more people are going to suffer [if they get in again].”

Kirstie Grice, who lives a couple of streets from Theresa May, her MP, said that two of her friends with MS had already lost their Motability vehicles while another two were awaiting appeals, having lost their eligibility for the enhanced mobility component of PIP.

All four, she said, were “quite severely immobile”.

She said: “The things I am hearing worry me a lot. Some of my friends have quite highly progressive MS and have no form of transport around them in terms of buses and they have had their Motability cars taken away.”

She said: “I think it is important that people can see disabled people on the streets, because we are a hidden group. We don’t have a voice.”

She added: “Even some of my friends don’t know what has been happening.

“They don’t believe what has been going on, they don’t think a government would do that to disabled people.”

She said her message to disabled voters was: “Please don’t vote Tory. Vote tactically, but don’t vote Tory.”

Merry Cross, who lives in nearby Reading and helped organise the protest, told DNS: “People are terrified of another five years of the Tories. I am absolutely at the end of my tether about it.

“Everybody I know who is disabled is so distressed, so upset, and is getting poorer and poorer.

“What I know is that they keep on finding more and more ways of failing people who have gone for their benefits assessments.”

She added: “The number who have already died is terrifying, the number who are suicidal just keeps increasing.

“If you ask anyone here how many times they have talked someone down who was going to [kill themselves] it is a very high number.”

Another local disabled activist, William Taggart, said: “The main thing about being here is to try and emphasise in Theresa May’s own constituency to people just how severely the cuts are affecting disabled people.”

He said that he and his friends were “terrified of getting that brown envelope [from the Department for Work and Pensions] through the letterbox.

“I grew up through a time when things were changing for disabled people, when things were moving forwards.

“In seven years, I have seen nearly all of that disappear.”

He said he was frequently called a “scrounger” when walking through the streets of nearby Woking.

Martin Tolley travelled from Suffolk to take part in Saturday’s protest, because he wanted “to let the people of Theresa May’s constituency know what she and her Tory party are really like and what they have done to disabled people since 2010”.

He said he believed that another five years of a Tory government would mean “more death, more poverty”.

Paula Peters, from DPAC, said it was “important to show the people of Maidenhead why disabled people are really angry at Theresa May after seven years of brutal Tory austerity” and that disabled people had “borne the brunt of the cuts”.

She said she was “very disappointed” that there had not been more disabled people at the protest, and she said the mood of the march had been “reflective” when it needed to be “really, really angry”.

She said: “I think people are frightened of what is to come but also exhausted at fighting the years of Tory austerity.”

She added: “Disabled people have been hammered time and again by the cuts.

“We are angry, we have had enough, but we are also terrified of another five years of a Tory government.”

She said: “We have seen our rights eroded. Everything we have fought for has just been taken away. If we don’t get Theresa May out on 8 June, heaven help us.”

She said her message was simple: “Vote Theresa May out. Get her out.”

Sean McGovern, co-chair of the TUC’s disabled workers’ committee, said it was important for disabled people to have “as big a visible presence as possible”, but that many had been “ground down” by the years of austerity.

He said: “It is seven years and people have done this 100 times. There is an element of where do we go and where is it getting us.”

He called on disabled people to use their vote on 8 June.

He said: “Another five years of Tory misrule will see a lot of people lying in an early grave.

“The last seven years have seen us lose our services and our benefits.

“Social care packages are being slashed, causing misery to thousands and thousands of disabled people who are becoming socially isolated and excluded.”

7 June 2017

 

 

#CripTheVoteUK campaign ‘may have awakened disabled voters’

A new, non-partisan online campaign could have helped bring about an “awakening” among some disabled people that their hard-fought rights are at stake in tomorrow’s general election, according to its founders.

#CripTheVoteUK was only launched in late April, but the disabled activists who founded the campaign believe it has made a small but significant contribution towards their aim of enabling disabled people to become a genuine political force.

The #CripTheVoteUK hashtag has been widely shared during the general election campaign, and weekly Twitter discussions have also raised its profile.

On Sunday, in the last of the discussions before tomorrow’s general election, actor and activist Liz Carr led a debate on the representation of disabled people and hate crime.

One of the campaign’s founders, Eleanor Lisney, told Disability News Service that she believed disabled people would have an impact on tomorrow’s election.

And she said she believed there had been more of a focus on disability than in previous election campaigns.

She said: “When you read the news, even people who are not disabled still mention us, they still mention how the cuts have affected us. We get mentioned. More than previous elections, even 2015.”

She said this had been particularly noticeable in the television debates.

Another of the campaign’s founders, Rick Burgess, said it was difficult to judge the impact of the #CripTheVoteUK campaign on the election but from the media coverage he had seen “we’ve done well, given the snap election time frame”.

The “proof of the pudding” was whether this helped to drive voter turnout among disabled people, he said.

He added: “The main thing is I hope it lays the groundwork for a proper permanent lobbying effort, because governments of any hue always need pressure to keep them to their promises once in power.”

Burgess said that continuing efforts to organise disabled people “into an informed and active political lobby will be essential to protecting our rights and lives.

“What the last seven years have proved is we cannot rely on charities, the medical community or society at large to respect our rights; we have to fight for ourselves.

“It’s a lesson from the past we have to relearn.”

And he said the stakes were high in tomorrow’s election.

He said: “This election can see the end of the abusive work capability assessment and personal independence payment regime, or we can see another five years of increasing death toll, cuts, and hate crime.”

Although #CripTheVoteUK has only had a few weeks to make an impact, Lisney said she hoped its influence would grow.

She said: “I am hoping that #CripTheVoteUK is waking people up to the fact that there is a power, a voice, that you can have.

“If you don’t fight, you can lose the rights that you are taking for granted.

“I hope they are awakening to the fact that you can lose what you are complaining about, the rights we have fought for.”

One of the challenges, she said, had been to maintain the principle that the campaign was non-partisan, and did not support one party over another.

She said: “What I tend to say is, ‘Look at the figures, decide for yourself, vote for yourself and your family and your community.’

“I think what we need to do is tell people what is happening. I make sure that what I send out [on Twitter] is from a reputable source.”

Lisney said she had been pleased that her local Labour candidate mentioned the campaign when he knocked on her door to discuss the election, after she had referred to it in social media messages she sent him.

But Lisney said she had been “a little surprised and frustrated” by the attitude of some of the disability charities, who have refused to support the campaign, and had told her that “our trustees won’t like it” if they support #CripTheVoteUK on social media.

7 June 2017

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com