A “Disability Confident” company owned by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) subjected a disabled member of staff to repeated abuse from strangers after it refused for more than 15 months to make a simple alteration to his parking arrangements.
It is now more than 15 months since wheelchair-user Jamie Shield reported to managers at BPDTS that he was receiving abuse from other workers at the Benton Park View complex in Newcastle because of the way he was forced to park his car.
Instead of arranging for him to have an accessible parking bay, BPDTS had allocated him two spaces next to each other and told him to park in the middle of the pair of bays, allowing him space to slide from the driver’s seat into his wheelchair.
But from the first day of the new arrangement, Shield began receiving abuse from passers-by, criticising him for parking in the middle of two spaces.
The abuse was so bad that he has considered reporting it as disability hate crime.
BPDTS was set up two years ago by DWP to provide it with its IT services, and is based at offices run by HM Revenue and Customs in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
The company claims – under DWP’s own disability employment scheme – to be a Disability Confident Employer, for those organisations “recognised as going the extra mile to make sure disabled people get a fair chance”.
Such employers must promise they are “proactively offering and making reasonable adjustments as required” to disabled employees.
But Shield said: “On an almost daily basis I got colleagues shaking their head at me, gesturing with their hands, or at worst walking past making verbal insults.
“Everybody who doesn’t know me and the arrangement thinks I am taking up two spaces.
“[Managers] told me there was nothing they could do about it and if I wasn’t happy I could leave my car at home and make alternative arrangements because I was the one who had the problem with parking.”
An employment tribunal case he took against BPDTS failed to properly consider these claims of discrimination for legal reasons, he says, and he is now taking a further case against the company.
And he is still waiting for other reasonable adjustments to be put into place by BPDTS.
Funding was approved in May 2017 for fellow staff to undergo awareness training in Asperger’s syndrome – as he is autistic – but the training has still not taken place more than a year later.
He feels he is being victimised and says the discrimination he faces has increased since the tribunal ruling in April. He is now on sick leave.
He said: “It would be highly appropriate for them to be taken off the Disability Confident register because by no means are they Disability Confident.”
A DWP spokeswoman said: “The matters raised have been heard previously at an employer tribunal. The judgement of which stated there was no discrimination taking place.
“We’re not able to comment further at this time due to ongoing litigation.”
It is the second time a disabled BPDTS employee has alleged discrimination because of the Disability Confident company’s parking policies.
Last September, Disability News Service (DNS) reported how Leonora Bateman was forced to quit her job because she was refused a parking space close to the BPDTS offices even though her mental health condition meant she experienced severe anxiety attacks when walking long distances on her own.
The Disability Confident scheme has been repeatedly discredited since it was launched by David Cameron in 2013.
Research published two years ago suggested it would be “trivially easy to abuse”, and in May 2017 DWP awarded itself the highest level of membership of the scheme despite being found guilty by the United Nations of “grave and systematic violations” of the UN disability convention.
A Civil Service survey in 2016 had also shown how more than 1,400 disabled DWP civil servants claimed they had faced discrimination in the workplace, an increase of nearly a quarter on the previous year.
DNS also revealed that among those employers that had signed up to Disability Confident were a company that tried to halve its disabled advisors’ pay; a religious order responsible for decades of abuse of disabled people; and a police force facing two disability discrimination inquiries.
DWP’s three benefit assessment contractors – Maximus, Atos and Capita – all heavily and repeatedly criticised for the way they treat disabled people, have also declared themselves to be Disability Confident.
21 June 2018
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is failing to support “vulnerable” claimants and is unable to monitor how they are being treated under its new universal credit benefit system, according to an investigation by the public spending watchdog.
The report by the National Audit Office (NAO) raises a string of serious concerns about the way vulnerable claimants are being dealt with by DWP as it gradually rolls out universal credit across the country.
It follows years of revelations by Disability News Service (DNS) and others concerning links between DWP’s social security cuts and reforms and the deaths of disabled benefit claimants seen as vulnerable by the department.
There was widespread media coverage last Friday of NAO’s damning conclusions that universal credit – which is replacing six means-tested benefits for working-age households – may cost more than the system it is replacing and has not delivered value for money, with its rollout “considerably slower than was initially intended”.
So far, DWP has spent £1.9 billion on universal credit, while it is now six years behind schedule.
Despite the criticism, NAO said the government had no “realistic alternative but to continue” rolling it out.
But within the 80-page report – which examines DWP’s progress in implementing universal credit – NAO also raises significant concerns about DWP’s failings in dealing with claimants who are in vulnerable situations.
Most of these claimants are likely to be disabled people, with many likely to have mental health conditions or learning difficulties.
Although DWP has put in place various types of support for those it considers vulnerable, such as help with budgeting and using computers, and allowing payments to be paid more often than once a month, the NAO report says the department has “found it difficult to identify and track those who it deems vulnerable”.
DWP has not even measured how many Universal Credit claimants are experiencing problems, because it “does not have systematic means of gathering intelligence” from “delivery partners” such as housing associations and local councils.
The NAO report says DWP “lacks the ability to monitor the treatment of vulnerable claimants” nationally and has not developed a way to record “different vulnerabilities” in its data systems.
Jobcentre managers told NAO that this “lack of vulnerability identification markers” was making it difficult for them to understand what local support was needed.
The report says that identifying vulnerability is important because it allows DWP to target support and set “appropriate conditions on welfare”, for example by easing the conditions they need to meet to avoid having their benefits sanctioned.
It says DWP has now “recognised the need to make changes to the way it identifies and provides support to vulnerable claimants”.
DWP’s own research last October found that some staff had found it difficult to support vulnerable claimants because they “lacked the time and ability to identify claimants who needed additional support” and “lacked the confidence to apply processes flexibly and make appropriate adjustments”, says the report.
They also “felt overwhelmed” by the number of universal credit claimants who reported health problems, says NAO.
But when asked how it responded to NAO’s concerns about vulnerability, whether it was concerned about these issues, and if it had any plans in place to address them, DWP refused to comment, providing only a general comment in response to the report*.
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “The failure of DWP to have any effective systems in place to identify and provide support to a range of ‘vulnerable’ claimants shows how little they care about the continuing harm that their policies and practices have in relation to disabled social security claimants.”
She added: “The NAO report has supported the view of many campaigners, including DPAC, that universal credit is totally and utterly unfit for purpose and that nothing less than ‘Stopping and Scrapping’ it is the only sensible action.
“It is well past time to completely scuttle Iain Duncan Smith’s failing flagship reform.”
Asked whether DWP was aware of any internal reviews into the deaths of universal credit claimants deemed “vulnerable”, a DWP spokesman advised DNS to submit a freedom of information request.
The concerns raised by NAO will raise fears that DWP has learned nothing from the scores of secret internal reviews into the deaths of benefit claimants that have been carried out since February 2012.
Last year, DWP admitted to the information commissioner that from February 2012 until September 2015 it kept no records of what happened to recommendations made by the internal reviews.
DWP had been unable to say whether it implemented 10 separate recommendations on improving the safety of vulnerable disabled people, following the deaths of six benefit claimants.
All six disabled people had applied for the out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance through the work capability assessment process.
*The DWP spokesman said: “Previous administrations poured billions into an outdated system with a complex myriad of benefits, which locked some people into cycles of welfare dependency.
“Whereas we are building a benefit system fit for the 21st century, providing flexible, person-centred support, with evidence showing universal credit claimants getting into work faster and staying in work longer.
“Universal credit is good value for money and is forecast to realise a return on investment of £34 billion over 10 years against a cost of £2 billion, with 200,000 more people in work.
“Furthermore, 83 per cent of claimants are satisfied with the service and the majority agree that it ‘financially motivates’ them to work.
“The NAO report fails to take into account the impact of the improvements we have made recently as part of our ‘listen and learn’ approach to the rollout of universal credit.
“These changes include the abolition of waiting days, making 100 per cent advance payments available from day one, and introducing two weeks additional housing cost support for people joining universal credit from housing benefit.
“Universal credit continues to be on track to be in all jobcentres nationally by the end of 2018.”
21 June 2018
An occupational therapist who carried out a “misleading” benefit assessment has been suspended for a year after regulators found she reported carrying out a physical examination of a disabled man that did not take place.
Paru Vekaria has shown no remorse over the incident, in which she stated in a written report for government contractor Maximus that she had carried out a detailed physical examination of the claimant.
But both the claimant – referred to as Service User A – and his daughter, who attended the work capability assessment (WCA) with him, said no such examination had taken place.
As a result of her “misleading” report, Service User A was found fit for work by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and so ineligible for employment and support allowance (ESA).
DWP later rubber-stamped the decision through the mandatory reconsideration process, and it was only at an appeal tribunal eight months later that the decision was overturned and Service User A was found eligible for ESA.
But despite the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) conduct and competence committee agreeing last week that no physical examination had taken place during the assessment in October 2016 – and concluding that the report contained “a high degree of misleading information” – they did not find that the assessor had behaved dishonestly.
Vekaria claimed she could not remember the assessment and so the panel concluded that it had “no evidence as to what state of mind led to her producing an inaccurate and misleading report”.
Hundreds of disabled people have come forward over the last 18 months to tell Disability News Service (DNS) how assessors working for Atos and Capita have written dishonest personal independence payment assessment reports, while many others submitted evidence to the Commons work and pensions committee alleging dishonest WCAs carried out by Maximus assessors.
The HCPC committee said it had treated the evidence given by Service User A at last week’s hearing “with caution” because he appeared “very driven in pursuing this matter”, had told them how he felt “humiliated” by what had happened, and had used phrases in his evidence such as “that’s how they catch you out”.
His daughter told the committee – mirroring evidence from scores of claimants who have reported similar incidents to DNS and elsewhere – that Vekaria said a physical examination was not necessary because she could see her father was in too much pain.
Four other claims that Vekaria had not reported what she was told during the assessment accurately were found “not proven” by the committee.
But the committee said that “in a number of respects, the information [Vekaria] included in the report was wrong”.
It said she had “demonstrated no insight into the shortcomings in her practice”, had shown no “expressions of remorse” and had not acknowledged the impact of her actions on Service User A.
Vekaria, who is not currently working as an occupational therapist, was told that her registration would be suspended for a year.
She worked for Maximus for more than two years and did not leave until July last year, four months after Service User A lodged a complaint against her with HCPC.
A Maximus spokesman said: “As we never received a complaint from either the customer or the HCPC regarding this matter, no investigation was undertaken at the time.
“However, it is our understanding that the former staff member was suspended by HCPC following a complaint about an assessment conducted during their time with us.
“We take our responsibility to provide an accurate service extremely seriously, and so we apologise that this report did not meet our standards.
“Our priority continues to be to deliver high-quality, respectful and fair assessments for all our customers.”
Asked whether it would check on the accuracy of the other assessment reports completed by Vekaria now it had been made aware of the committee’s findings, he said: “We will review the report from the HCPC in detail and seek a meeting with them to discuss any issues arising from this case.”
21 June 2018
Disabled campaigners have reacted with alarm to the government’s decision that it will not address the social care funding crisis until the end of next year, despite announcing billions of pounds a year extra for the NHS.
Despite saying in a speech that ministers “know we need to improve social care”, prime minister Theresa May said a new funding settlement for social care would not be announced until the next spending review, expected at the end of 2019.
The health and social care secretary, Jeremy Hunt, also told MPs that the government’s green paper on older people’s social care – which had been expected next month – would now be delayed until the autumn so it could be published at “around the same time” as a new 10-year plan for the NHS.
Hunt had earlier told the BBC that the government would also produce “a long-term plan for social care” but that ministers “can’t do all these things at the same time”.
The Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) had not been able by 1pm today (Thursday) to explain whether its parallel piece of work on working-age disabled adults and social care had also been delayed until the autumn.
A DHSC spokeswoman had refused to comment when asked why the social care funding crisis was not being addressed at the same time as NHS funding.
May and Hunt announced an average real terms increase in NHS funding of 3.4 per cent a year from 2019-20 to 2023-24, which will see NHS England’s budget increase by £20.5 billion in real terms by 2023-24.
Although the government will not say how the NHS increase will be funded until the chancellor delivers his budget at the end of this year, the increase in funding was broadly welcomed.
But there was frustration among disabled commentators and campaigners that – yet again – ministers had failed to address the need for a major increase in social care funding.
Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of the national service-user network Shaping Our Lives, said: “What’s most worrying about the failure to announce matched new funding for social care to go with the promised big hike in resources for the NHS is that it suggests this government still doesn’t recognise the inter-dependence of the two.
“This despite recently broadening the secretary of state’s role explicitly to include social care.
“We should be very afraid. The signs are that this announcement re NHS funding is essentially about getting policy rhetoric in line in advance of the next general election.
“They know they are vulnerable on the NHS.
“The fact that there’s a big hole where radical improvements to social care policy and funding are concerned means that either this government is unwilling to face up to this massive challenge or it just doesn’t know how to.
“This is terrible news for all older and disabled people and our families.”
Sue Bott, deputy chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “It is very disappointing that, once again, the government has failed to get to grips with the importance that social care support plays in the lives of disabled people.
“The president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, Glen Garrod, is correct in stating that only funding the NHS and failing to fund social care is like ‘pouring water down the sink with no plug in’.
“For us to live our lives to the full requires an understanding of how services and funding impact each other.
“Sadly, such understanding is not there, resulting in poor quality of life for many disabled people.”
Dr Marc Bush, a member of the disability advisory committee of the Equality and Human Rights Commission – although speaking for himself and not on behalf of the committee – said: “The government is right to increase the NHS financial settlement, and the focus must now turn to the crisis in adult social care.”
He said disabled people’s hopes had been raised when Hunt changed his title from health secretary to health and social care secretary.
But he said their interests had now been “sidelined”, as “commentators and politicians alike continue to debate the interests of older people, leaving to one side the needs of the third of people using care services who are of working-age and disabled, or living with long-term conditions”.
Bush, a visiting professor in public health at the University of Northampton, said social care was “crucial to disabled people’s lives, dignity, and ability to live independently”.
And he pointed to the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities, which last autumn “called for urgent action from the UK government to ensure that disabled people were provided with adequate support to live independent lives”.
He said: “Clarity is urgently needed on a sustainable and long-term financial settlement for adult social care.
“Many of us will remember the promises made by previous administrations and during the passing of the Care Act [in 2014].
“We can’t afford another empty promise, the human cost to disabled people and their families is too great.
“This morning, Jeremy Hunt said: ‘There will be a time for social care.’ That time is now!”
21 June 2018
The government’s decision to stop regular benefit reassessments for some people with “the most severe, lifelong conditions” shows that replacing disability living allowance (DLA) with personal independence payment (PIP) was a waste of time and money, it has been claimed.
Sarah Newton, the minister for disabled people, confirmed this week that claimants with such conditions who are awarded the highest level of support under PIP – if their needs are expected to stay the same or increase – will no longer be subjected to repeat assessments.
Instead, they will have to undergo a “light touch review” every 10 years.
The announcement confirms a suggestion made by the government in its response to a report on the disability benefit assessment regime by the Commons work and pensions committee earlier this year.
In that response, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) suggested it would change guidance to its civil servants to ensure that PIP claimants receiving “the highest level of support get an award duration that is appropriate to the condition and needs arising”.
Now Newton has confirmed that this guidance will be changed, with a new version to be published later this summer.
She said: “We’ve listened to feedback from organisations and the public, and this common-sense change will ensure that the right protections are in place while minimising any unnecessary stress or bureaucracy.
“The government will be working with stakeholders to design the light touch review process so that it adds value for both our claimants and the department – for example, by providing information on services available and ensuring that contact or bank details have not changed.”
Despite some claims in the media that this will mean all people with conditions such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis will no longer face PIP reassessments, this is unlikely to be the government’s intention.
Buckinghamshire Disability Service (BuDS) warned on its Facebook page that disabled people should treat the government’s announcement “very cautiously”.
BuDS said: “The DWP haven’t said what they mean by ‘severe and lifelong’ conditions yet.
“However, the wording of this announcement is very similar to the one last year about [employment and support allowance], where the DWP said that people with severe lifelong conditions would not need to have repeated work capability assessments.
“So the feeling is that the same criteria will be used for PIP as were announced for ESA.
“But those criteria are very restricted and do not help very many people. Most of the people they help would probably have got a very long or unlimited ESA award anyway.
“So the PIP announcement today might be equally meaningless for most people.”
Linda Burnip, co-founder of Disabled People Against Cuts, raised similar concerns.
She said: “I’ll believe it when we see this as we’re still waiting months later for people to be exempt from repeated ESA assessments as promised.
“Such changes would not in any way help the many thousands of disabled people who have lost DLA and been refused PIP because of the 20 metre rule either.”
Newton’s announcement has also been seen as another move back towards disability living allowance (DLA), the benefit PIP is replacing for working-age claimants.
One of the key reasons ministers gave for introducing PIP was that DLA supposedly allowed claimants to secure unchecked “welfare for life” because of the lack of repeat assessments.
The current work and pensions secretary, Esther McVey, made the claim herself five years ago in a bid to justify the introduction of PIP and proposed cuts of 20 per cent.
Now McVey has approved changes that will apparently see PIP move back towards a DLA-type system.
Jenny Morris, who helped write the Labour government’s Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People white paper, believes the government’s failure to secure the 20 per cent cuts to spending on disability benefits was partly because they mistakenly believed that reassessing people on so-called lifetime awards would find the support needs of many of them had reduced.
But disabled people with lifelong conditions see their support needs – and their benefits – increase as they age under PIP, when under DLA they would not have been reassessed and so would have been left on a lower level of benefits.
Morris said people were placed on lifetime DLA awards “for very good reasons” and all the government had done by introducing PIP and its frequent reassessments in 2013 was to “create extra costs for themselves”.
She said the latest move by Newton showed the government had spent years and wasted hundreds of millions of pounds on its PIP reforms, while exposing people to assessments that were “very oppressive and upsetting”.
She said: “One of the worst things about it is they have introduced a process which people find so distressing, so unhelpful, in an attempt to save money, and they haven’t even done that.”
She added: “We could have told you so, and we did tell you so.”
Meanwhile, the latest figures from social security tribunals show the proportion of claimants who have won their PIP appeals rose by seven percentage points in a year, from 64 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016-17 to 71 per cent in the same period of 2017-18.
21 June 2018
A “ground-breaking” report on co-production has created a blueprint for disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) across the country to push for change from their own local authorities.
Disabled campaigners yesterday called for the report of the Hammersmith and Fulham Disabled People’s Commission to be shared with other local authorities and DPOs.
Speaking at its launch in west London, they said other councils should follow the example of Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham council, which commissioned the report.
Nothing About Disabled People Without Disabled People focuses on how to remove the barriers disabled people face in the London borough by embedding a culture of genuine co-production within the council.
Among the barriers that disabled residents told the commission about were disability hate crime; inaccessible shops and public transport; social isolation; a shortage of accessible housing; a lack of support for inclusive education; benefits cuts and poverty; and cuts to social care and support.
All the commission’s 10 members were disabled people, and their eight recommendations have each been accepted in full by the council.
The commission spent more than a year examining research, running surveys for residents, council staff and councillors, and holding meetings and public events.
Among their recommendations, they call for the council to work in genuine co-production with disabled residents; to introduce an accessible communication strategy to promote co-production across the borough; to produce a new co-production budget; and to develop a long-term strategy for funding DPOs in the borough.
Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, a user-led organisation which supports DPOs across the capital, said that none of the “same old consultations and listening exercises” carried out by other councils even came close to what was happening in Hammersmith and Fulham.
She said the council was “putting into practice one of the key principles of the disabled people’s rights movement: Nothing About Us Without Us”.
She said: “The power and the impact you’re already having is absolutely linked to this fundamental principle.
“You’re doing it, you’re not just talking about it. That is what is so exciting,
“You have created a report where disabled people are leading the change, are leading the transformation.
“It’s about identifying the solutions and the way to make lasting change. You have really got a blueprint here.”
She highlighted one of the report’s key recommendations, a pledge to provide long-term funding for DPOs in the borough, which she said was “ground-breaking” at a time when most London DPOs – of those that have not yet been forced to close – were facing “huge cuts”.
Lazard said that many boroughs in London no longer have a DPO, as she told Disability News Service last week.
She said: “Without implementing recommendation seven [on funding DPOs], none of the other recommendations in this fantastic report are going to be achieved because DPOs are absolutely critical.”
She said it was “still routine for disabled people to be silenced and marginalised and for non-disabled people to speak up on our behalf”, and she said the big non-user-led charities like Scope and Leonard Cheshire were “still hanging on to power”, which they refused to share with disabled people.
And she said these charities had been “silent in the face of the systematic attacks disabled people are experiencing”, pointing to their silence after the UK government was accused last autumn by the UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities of creating a “human catastrophe” for disabled people.
She won loud applause from the packed launch event when she said: “That’s because they really don’t speak for us, but our own organisations do.
“That is why what you are doing here is so important, because you are leading that change,
“This is so important for disabled people up and down this country. What you’re doing here is ground-breaking.
“Too often we are told that we can’t do this kind of work because of austerity.
“Hammersmith and Fulham shows you that political choices can be made and the right ones can be made. This is why it is so important to spread the word.”
Tara Flood, who chaired the independent commission and is director of The Alliance for Inclusive Education – although currently on a sabbatical – told the launch event that the council had also committed to reflecting the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in all its work.
She said: “I cannot imagine there is another council in this country who is anywhere close to that and that is absolutely fantastic.
“What is going on here is very different to what is going on nationally and in other parts of the country.”
She said she was convinced that implementing the report’s recommendations would lead to “lasting change for disabled residents across the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham”.
Clenton Farquharson, chair of the National Co-production Advisory Group (NCAG) and of Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) – a national partnership committed to health and care personalisation and community-based support – said the report was “seriously impressive”.
He said that implementing its recommendations would see Hammersmith and Fulham “becoming a more inclusive and better place to live for disabled people and everyone”.
He said it set out an “ambition and direction that I would want to see happen across the country”.
Farquharson said he would bring the report to the attention of TLAP, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, NCAG, and TLAP’s other partners.
He added: “I would expect a lot of callers coming round to Hammersmith and Fulham to find out what is going on.”
Sue Fennimore, deputy leader of the council, said the commission’s report should be a model for disability equality across the country.
She said the council had realised that disabled people were probably the most “disenfranchised” and “patronised” section of the community and were “furthest from being able to access services that are designed for them without them being at the table”.
She said: “We hope that people will be listening very carefully to the work that has been done by the commission and will be able to model that across other local authorities.
“Our vision for this commission is to be the best council in the country for disabled people to live in, to work in and to socialise in.
“That’s the vision. Nothing more, nothing less.”
21 June 2018
The minister for disabled people has been caught misleading MPs – again – as she tried to defend her government’s repeated breaches of the UN disability convention.
It was the second time in five months that Sarah Newton has misled MPs in a House of Commons debate about the support provided to disabled people.
Labour MPs, including the shadow minister for disabled people Marsha de Cordova, had queued up to highlight the government’s “brutal” cuts to social security and its violations of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
De Cordova told Newton: “Over the past eight years, we have seen not the progressive implementation of disabled people’s rights, but their unprecedented erosion and violation.”
And she said that “brutal cuts to disabled people’s social security” had “made a mockery” of the convention’s article 19, on the right to live independently, and article 28, on the right to an adequate standard of living.
She said: “Half of people in poverty are now either disabled or living with someone who is disabled.
“Almost a quarter of disabled people are now forced to miss meals because of economic hardship, and one in five cannot pay to heat their homes.”
De Cordova, one of parliament’s few disabled MPs, pointed out that the government was helping to organise a global disability summit in London next month, but she asked: “Why should any other state take them seriously on disability rights when they are systematically violating the rights of disabled people and continue to ignore the UN’s recommendations?”
The debate, secured by Labour MP Rosie Duffield, was discussing last autumn’s report on the UK’s implementation of UNCRPD, and the conclusion of the UN’s disability committee that the UK government should make more than 80 improvements to the ways its laws and policies affect disabled people’s human rights.
In a briefing prepared ahead of the debate, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and other members of the UK Independent Mechanism* – the official bodies for monitoring the UK’s progress in implementing the convention – had called on the UK government to describe how it would “comprehensively address” the UN committee’s findings.
UKIM raised concerns that the government had not made any commitment to implementing the recommendations.
And it said the government had also rejected the committee’s recommendations on social security reform in its 2016 inquiry report, which “found evidence of grave and systematic violations of disabled people’s rights” to an adequate standard of living and social protection; work and employment; and independent living.
UKIM said “extensive evidence” showed disabled people continued to face “serious regression of their rights to an adequate standard of living and social protection, and to live independently in the community”.
And it said that the continued failure to act on the UN committee’s recommendations “goes against the UK Government’s stated commitments to equality and inclusion for disabled people, and undermines its position as a global leader on disability rights”.
The UKIM also said that it was “concerned about the lack of UK Government progress in protecting the rights of disabled people in the UK” and had “particular concerns about the adverse impact of social security reforms on disabled people”.
Despite the detailed evidence included in the UKIM briefing and the comments of opposition MPs, Newton told MPs yesterday (Wednesday) that ministers “utterly refute the allegations that the government have discriminated against disabled people, systematically undermined and violated their human rights and, worst of all, that we are targeting their welfare support”.
In attempting to defend her government’s record on cuts to social security, she told MPs that there had been “no freeze in the benefits that disabled people receive”.
But this is not true, a fact repeatedly pointed out to Tory ministers and her party.
Although disability living allowance, personal independence payment and the employment and support allowance (ESA) support group top-up are exempt from the benefits freeze – which is set to last to 2020 – there is no exemption for the main component of ESA and the top-up paid to those in the ESA work-related activity group, which continue to be frozen.
DWP had not been able to say by 1pm today (Thursday) whether Newton would apologise for misleading MPs.
It is the second time this year that Newton has misled MPs in a Westminster Hall debate.
In January, she told MPs taking part in a debate on the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) that the decision to close ILF “was challenged in a judicial review, and throughout the process the DWP won on all points”.
But the court of appeal had actually been highly critical of Esther McVey in 2013, and found that her decision to close the fund when she was minister for disabled people was unlawful, and that she had breached the Equality Act’s public sector equality duty.
McVey had been appointed as the new work and pensions secretary – and Newton’s new boss – just a day before January’s debate took place.
*The UK Independent Mechanism’s members are the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Scottish Human Rights Commission
21 June 2018
News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com