Brexit vote: Disabled people seek safe haven in Scotland

Hundreds or even thousands of disabled people are so alarmed by the idea of Britain leaving the European Union (EU) that they are considering moving to Scotland, information from disabled activists suggests.

One disabled campaigner has told Disability News Service (DNS) that she has been contacted personally by 70 disabled people who want to leave for Scotland in the wake of last week’s referendum result, in which Britain voted to leave the EU by a margin of 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

Pat Onions, co-founder of Pat’s Petition, who lives in Scotland, said disabled people had been in touch by text, phone, email and on Facebook.

She said: “Scotland wants to remain in the EU. They felt their human rights would be protected. They felt it was a safer country to live then England.

“They felt Tories would remain in power after Brexit even with a general election in the autumn [and that] no-one in England cares about people with disabilities anymore.”

She added: “Feelings amongst disabled people are running high. They are scared – more than before with such uncertainty. Scotland seems like a safe place to be.”

Two other disabled campaigners have separately told DNS that they want to move north of the border, in the hope that Scotland will vote for independence and join the EU as an independent nation.

Doug Paulley has played a leading role in using the legal system to fight disability discrimination in England, and is currently awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on whether disabled people should have priority in using the wheelchair space on buses.

He is so concerned at the loss of safeguards that are currently provided by EU legislation that he is considering a move north of the Scottish border.

Paulley, who lives in Wetherby, Yorkshire, said: “I’m not sure I want to be part of a country that has lost all its safeguards for disabled people’s rights and is already victimising disabled people.”

He said the government was already “fairly openly hostile to disabled people” and was “making them pay for austerity”, and that an EU exit would mean a “significant loss of protection” on independent living and equality.

He said: “We don’t know how much worse it’s going to be. Being in Europe could have been protecting us from things being even worse than they already are.”

Paulley said he saw Scotland as a “safe environment”, and even if there was a delay in it joining the EU, he said he would “rather be in a country that is wanting to be in the EU than one that is isolationist”.

He insists he is serious about the idea, although he accepts the difficulty of transferring his care package from one part of the UK to another.

He said: “I don’t want to do anything too quickly because I wouldn’t want to do anything based purely on the shock [of the EU vote] but in reality as a disabled person you can’t anyway, so it will take a while to research and organise, [but] I am definitely starting.”

Martin Kelly, founder and chief executive of the Disability Experts consultancy, said he too was considering a move to Scotland.

He said: “My wife is Scottish and is keen to return following the result and I’m not against the idea either.

“We said we would look into moving to Scotland if the vote was to leave. This is because we want to be member of the EU, we feel we have the protection of EU laws as people with disabilities.

“I was devastated by the result because I don’t feel as protected as I used to.

“I’m concerned that our human rights will be altered and I’m concerned that any progress we have made since the Disability Discrimination Act and the Equality Act will be undone by an autonomous government.”

John McArdle, co-founder of the user-led grassroots network Black Triangle, which is based in Scotland, said: “I have had a lot of people express that opinion.

“I don’t know whether it means they will just pack up and move north.”

But he said the referendum had “hardened people’s fears and sense of insecurity”.

He said: “The feeling is that people are terrified that there has been such a right-wing shift in British politics because of Brexit.”

He said this had led to a rise in hate crime, which had affected disabled people who were being blamed for claiming benefits and causing the country’s financial problems.

McArdle said: “People look north to us and see a lack of any of that and all this hatred and division and see broadly speaking [in Scotland] social solidarity.

“That’s what is making people feel they would prefer to live in a country like Scotland rather than England, with the way things are going.”

He said he believed that some disabled people would move north, but for a combination of reasons and not just the Brexit vote.

He said: “This may just be a tipping point.”

McArdle said one reason could be the Scottish government’s move to set up its own Independent Living Fund, following the closure of the fund in England last year, and new wide-ranging powers for the Scottish government to control benefits such as disability living allowance and personal independence payment, as a result of the Scotland Act.

Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, pledged in her party’s manifesto for this year’s Scottish parliament elections that an SNP government would “protect disability benefits” and “reform assessment procedures to ensure they work for service users, and stop the revolving door of assessments and related stress and anxiety for those with long-term illnesses, disabilities or conditions”.

30 June 2016

 

 

UN report raises ‘deep concerns’ about impact of austerity on disabled people

UN experts have expressed serious concerns about the impact of government austerity on the rights of disabled people and other disadvantaged groups.

In a scathing report, the UN committee on economic, social and cultural rights said it was “seriously concerned” about the “disproportionate adverse impact” of the austerity measures introduced by successive Tory-led governments.

And it questioned why the government had made no attempt to carry out a “comprehensive assessment of the cumulative impact” of these measures on the economic, social and cultural rights of disabled people and other groups.

Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, tried to dismiss the report as “very historical” when he spoke at a meeting of the all-party parliamentary disability group on Tuesday (28 June), even though the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) provided updated information to the committee in April, and the Just Fair consortium of UK human rights organisations provided its own updated report last month.

The UN committee has now become just the latest in a series of expert, influential organisations to call for a cumulative impact assessment of government cuts and reforms on disabled people, a demand disabled activists have been making since at least the autumn of 2011, when first Pat’s Petition and then the WOW petition demanded such action by the government.

These organisations include EHRC, parliament’s joint committee on human rights, the Department for Work and Pensions’ own social security advisory committee, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The committee said it was “deeply concerned” about the social security reforms introduced by the coalition and the current Conservative government, and said it was “particularly concerned” about the impact on groups such as disabled people, women, children and low-income families.

It called for the benefit cuts that came in through the 2012 and 2016 welfare reform acts to be reversed.

It also raised concerns about how often the UK government used benefit sanctions, and the absence of “due process and access to justice” for those who have been sanctioned, and called for a review of their use.

When asked by Disability News Service (DNS) for his response to the report, during Tuesday’s meeting, Tomlinson said: “I don’t want to have a political debate, because I will probably lose, but in reality we are spending £3 billion a year more on supporting people with long-term health conditions and disabilities than when we came into office.

“There are always requests for different ways we could spend money, different places we could spend more money.”

And he said that DWP had to justify “every bit of our expenditure to Treasury”.

When DNS asked whether this meant he was saying the UN committee was wrong and its conclusions were unfounded, and whether he was aware of the report, he said: “I am aware and we will publish our full response but we are not in a position to do that yet.”

But he said: “There is still much more that we need to do.

“That is absolutely the case as to why the secretary of state has gone for the green paper [on employment support for disabled people, due to be published later this year], rather than a white paper, where it is ‘we know best’… whereas the green paper is about opportunity [for disabled people and others to have their say].”

He added: “They have made a series of recommendations. We will look at that. Many of those things we are already doing, because this is very historical.”

When DNS pointed out that the report was not historical and had been provided with up-to-date information from disabled campaigners in the last few months, Tomlinson said: “You and I can disagree on that.

“I am not dismissing the importance of it, I am just saying that some of the things that have been looked at have already been responded to.”

The UK ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 1976 and was last reviewed on its progress on implementing the treaty in 2009, under the last Labour government.

The committee is one of 10 bodies that monitor the implementation of the UN’s main human rights treaties.

Because the UK has ratified the treaty, it is obliged to use the “maximum of its available resources” to progressively achieve the “full realization of economic, social and cultural rights”.

The committee warned all the countries that have signed up to the treaty in 2012 that austerity measures must be “temporary, necessary, proportionate, and not discriminatory and must not disproportionately affect the rights of disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups”.

Among other concerns raised by the committee in its “concluding observations”, it criticised the UK’s failure to bring into force the Equality Act measures on dual discrimination, which would outlaw, for example, cases in which people are directly discriminated against for being both disabled and gay, or for being both black and a woman.

The committee also said that it was concerned that disabled people, young people and those belonging to ethnic, religious or other minorities continued to be disproportionately affected by unemployment.

And it raised concerns about the “persistent critical situation in terms of availability, affordability and accessibility of adequate housing” in the UK, and the “significant” rise and “exceptionally high levels” of homelessness affecting disabled people and other groups, particularly in England and Northern Ireland.

It also raised concerns about the government’s reforms to legal aid and the introduction of employment tribunal fees, which it said had “restricted access to justice, in areas such as employment, housing, education and social welfare benefits”.

And it called for more information in the UK’s next report to the committee on the impact of its national strategy on gender-based violence, particularly on disabled women and girls.

In a tiny section on the “positive aspects” of the UK’s progress, the committee praised the 2009 ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – under the last Labour government – the introduction of the Care Act 2014 and the Modern Slavery Act 2015, as well as work by the Scottish government on integrating refugees and on drawing up a human rights national action plan.

EHRC welcomed the report and again called on the government to carry out a cumulative impact assessment of its policies on disabled people and other groups, and called on it to “improve its planning and monitoring of reforms to social security” and review social security policies which have led to cuts in protection.

Lorna McGregor, an EHRC commissioner, also highlighted the committee’s concerns on access to justice.

She said: “Recent reforms to civil law justice have had particular impacts on disabled people, women and ethnic minorities.

“For example, the introduction of fees for employment tribunals has resulted in large drops in the numbers of claims brought for discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, race and sexual orientation.

“I welcome this report by the UN and we will now work with civil society organisations to hold the government to account in this area.”

30 June 2016

 

 

DWP piles WCA demand onto ‘humiliated’ abuse survivor

A government contractor has told a traumatised abuse survivor he must be reassessed for employment and support allowance (ESA), just a week after a minister faced a call to resign for threatening to stop another of his disability benefits.

Justin Tomlinson, the minister for disabled people, caused outrage last week after it emerged that he had threatened the man – who is waiting to give evidence about the abuse in court – that his benefits would be stopped if he failed to co-operate with a personal independence payment (PIP) reassessment by Atos.

David* is a key witness in the trial and has been told by police not to discuss his case, or allow the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) or Atos access to his medical records, because the court proceedings are live and the case is sub judice.

DWP finally agreed earlier this month to stop contacting David until after the end of the trial, although he later received a further letter from Atos and a threatening letter from Tomlinson via his MP.

But he has now been sent a demand by another government contractor, Maximus, to attend a face-to-face work capability assessment next month, warning him that his out-of-work disability benefit ESA could be affected if he fails to attend.

David has severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), caused by the horrific sexual abuse he suffered as a child, and which has led to several suicide attempts.

He says the way he was being treated by DWP and its contractors was causing him “severe stress” and that he felt the department was “making fun” of him and subjecting him to harassment and humiliation.

Only this week, the new work and pensions secretary, Stephen Crabb – a candidate for the Tory leadership and therefore to be the next prime minister – told a meeting of the all-party parliamentary disability group that he wanted DWP to “do people well” and for it to “be a people organisation”.

He even spoke of his concern that he and other MPs were used to disabled people attending their advice surgeries “in tears” because of the way they had been treated by the benefits system.

Disability News Service has already revealed that DWP repeatedly contacted the police force investigating the abuse allegations to ask about David’s evidence, although Tomlinson denies this.

David said he planned to lodge a complaint with the police about the harassment he had experienced at the hands of DWP and its contractors.

Even though the toll of the criminal investigation on his mental health has been harrowing, resulting in a series of self-harm episodes, DWP has continued its attempts to force him to submit to a PIP reassessment, and now an ESA reassessment, even though it has been told repeatedly that his health records are part of the court case.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “[David] requested not to be contacted regarding his PIP claim – this letter relates to his ESA claim.

“We will of course look into this matter in relation to his ESA claim.”

When DNS said David had been assured that he would not be contacted at all, and had been told by a DWP manager last year that he would not be contacted about his ESA claim until after the trial, she added: “We are doing all we can to support [David] and our team in operations is looking at his case.”

David’s treatment highlights yet again concerns about DWP’s policies and procedures for dealing with vulnerable people, an issue highlighted last month when the department was finally forced to publish redacted versions of 49 secret “peer reviews” into the deaths of benefit claimants.

Those peer reviews showed that ministers were repeatedly warned by their own civil servants that their policies to assess people for disability benefits were putting the lives of vulnerable claimants at risk.

Only last week, a DWP spokesman denied that it was persecuting or harassing David, and claimed that Tomlinson had been trying to tell him in the letter to his MP “that we were going to try and leave [David] alone and not contact him, in acknowledgement of the fact that he is a vulnerable person and he is going through a trial”.

But Tomlinson has insisted that David has to be reassessed for PIP, despite the trial.

*Not his real name

30 June 2016

 

 

Crabb scrapped IDS’s white paper because he ‘didn’t like the look of it’

The new work and pensions secretary scrapped the disability and employment white paper prepared by his predecessor Iain Duncan Smith because he “didn’t like the look” of it, a Tory MP has told a parliamentary meeting.

The new work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb had previously said that he wanted to “take a step back” from previous government plans to publish a white paper that would have included “firm legislative proposals” on supporting disabled people into work.

But fellow Conservative MP Heidi Allen told the all-party parliamentary disability group that there had been “a little bit of cynicism” about why Crabb had decided to postpone the white paper when he took over from Duncan Smith in March.

Some MPs and campaigners had criticised the decision, claiming that it was “kicking the issue into the long grass” and complaining that ministers had previously “bought off their own rebels” with a promise to have firm proposals in place through the white paper by the summer.

That promise had been made after Tory backbench unease about plans to cut almost £30 a week from payments to new claimants placed in the work-related activity group of employment and support allowance.

But Allen said of Crabb’s white paper decision: “Honestly and truthfully, between these four walls, he didn’t like the look of the old one.”

She later told Disability News Service that this information had not come directly from Crabb, but that she had heard he was “unhappy with the white paper proposals as far as they had developed and wanted to start the process again, engage with disability groups and go back to a green paper”.

Crabb had earlier told the meeting – he left before Allen made her comments – that the issue of disability employment had received “nothing like the real high level attention it deserves within government” and that he had come in “with a fresh pair of eyes” to look at the manifesto pledge to halve the disability employment gap.

He said he had made the decision “not to rush ahead with the white paper” because he realised that there were many people who “want to be working, want to be doing something, want support… but are not getting that support at the moment”.

He also repeated his pledge that, following his decision to scrap further cuts to personal independence payment – announced in the wake of Duncan Smith’s resignation – he was not going to “dip into another part of the welfare budget” to fill that gap.

Tomlinson, who also addressed the meeting, claimed that disabled people would “tell us the best way to do it” through the green paper, and that those employers that were able to “adapt” would benefit from employing more disabled people.

He said: “We have to make sure businesses have the confidence that they are offering opportunities to disabled people based on ability and not disability.”

And he said the government needed to ensure that businesses were “well supported” and that “best practice is shared”.

But Tomlinson was heavily-criticised for his department’s failure to do more to help dyslexic job-seekers.

After he said DWP was “doing a lot more upskilling across the Jobcentre Plus network” on dyslexia, Margaret Malpas, chair of the British Dyslexia Association (BDA), said her charity had provided free training for DWP staff, and had not even had its expenses paid.

She said: “It’s ridiculous. I don’t know what we do to get noticed. We cannot get a hearing, we can’t get anybody to speak to us from DWP, or anywhere else.”

Tomlinson said that one of his most senior members of staff was dyslexic, and he agreed to meet with BDA, and said: “I understand the importance. You are preaching to the converted.

“There is some stuff being done. A lot more needs to be done.”

30 June 2016

 

 

Brexit vote: Fear and uncertainty over impact of EU exit

Campaigners and experts say they fear that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) could have serious consequences for disabled people, although it is too early for an accurate assessment of the likely impact.

Among the concerns raised are that the referendum result could trigger another recession, an increase in unemployment and a fresh round of spending cuts.

But there are also fears that disabled people could lose some of the legal protection from discrimination that they receive through EU membership, although it is far from clear what would happen to those rights when Britain leaves.

These protections include EU rules on procurement by public bodies; the air passengers regulation, which provides assistance for disabled passengers travelling in the EU, and similar rules for travel by train, ship, bus and coach; the EU directive on web accessibility for public sector websites, which was agreed last month but has not yet become law; the EU directive on equal treatment in employment and occupation from 2000, which bans disability discrimination in employment; and the planned European Accessibility Act, which will set “common accessibility requirements for certain key products and services”.

Experts have suggested that the impact on disabled people will depend on the departure terms the UK agrees with the rest of the EU.

If the UK stays in the EU single market – which is far from certain – it could mean that it will have to ensure that its domestic laws meet the standards set out in EU law relating to the market, according to Professor Anna Lawson, the disabled law expert who heads the new Disability Law Hub at the University of Leeds.

This is likely to include employment rights and discrimination laws and the proposed European Accessibility Act, she said.

If the UK agrees to maintain freedom of movement across other EU member states – which again is far from certain – this could help disabled people retain and recruit personal assistants (PAs), and enable the NHS to recruit staff, she added.

But the position of EU regulations on accessible air and ship travel is less clear and more vulnerable to being lost, as they are set out in EU law but not in separate UK legislation, she said.

She added: “So if all EU law were to cease to have effect in the UK, we would lose those rights automatically.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) website confirms that the post-referendum picture will be a complex one.

Many protections under EU law have been incorporated into UK domestic law by legislation, and so would remain applicable post-EU exit unless repealed by parliament. The same applies to most – but not all – secondary legislation.

The commission also points out that if the UK exits the EU, it is likely to negotiate a trade agreement and that “existing models for trade agreements with the EU require an EU trading partner to comply with EU law (at least in the areas covered by the trade agreement)”.

It adds: “Therefore, leaving the EU, and conducting trade through a new trading agreement, would not necessarily result in lower protections for human rights and equality in domestic law.”

Emily Brothers, a former senior EHRC manager and now a high-profile disabled Labour politician, was less optimistic.

She said she was “extremely disappointed and concerned” about the implications for disabled people, as membership of the EU had brought them “strengthened rights and opportunities, as well as encouraging greater awareness and tolerance”.

She said she believed that progress was now at risk.

She said that if exit from the EU did lead to a halt to free movement across EU states, it could have a serious impact on the number of European migrants willing and able to work as PAs for disabled people.

She said: “The consequence of reduced migration is that the pool of PA support will become smaller and it will be more difficult to find support.

“As pay is often low and [there are] long or irregular hours, it is often taken up by hard-working Eastern Europeans.

“Therefore, it will be difficult for disabled people to find PA support that is reliable and effective.”

She said she believed that this could put the independence of many disabled people at risk.

Brothers said the Brexit vote had also created economic uncertainty, which “may well lead to the government stepping up their austerity agenda and that may have implications for funding of care and support”.

She said: “It is hardly surprising that many disabled people tell me of their worries about the potential consequences of Brexit.

“That may lead to some people not being able to sustain independent living and going into institutional care. That would be a serious backward step.”

She added: “Whether any of this happens will depend on the terms of the Brexit plan.

“There is no plan, so disabled people and others worry about the potential implications of Brexit.

“That’s why disabled people need to have a voice in the emerging reforms as they unfold.”

In a blog for Disability Now, John Evans, one of the founders of the UK independent living movement, said disabled people were “now confronted with the sad prospect of losing our human rights”, and risked losing access to EU legislation and directives “which have protected our rights for the last 20 years”.

He said they would also lose access to European funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds, including the European Social Fund, “which have been important for many years in supporting numerous projects for disabled people’s organisations and has also helped us strengthen our networks”.

Evans agreed with Brothers and Lawson that leaving the EU could have a severe impact on disabled people’s ability to recruit PAs.

He said: “I have been employing my own personal assistants for 33 years and during this time I have employed PAs from 12 different EU countries.

“I would not have been able to have managed this if we were not part of the EU.

“If we leave, this opportunity will no longer be available to us and will restrict thousands of disabled people finding new PAs.”

Disability Rights UK said it was important that “disabled people’s hard won rights are not eroded as the UK negotiates its way out of the European Union”.

It pointed to the web accessibility directive and the European Accessibility Act proposals, and said: “We need to make sure that as the UK de-links itself from EU law this isn’t at the expense of important new rights like that.”

Equality and human rights consultant Neil Crowther, former EHRC director of human rights, said he believed the UK would need to comply with the regulations that govern the single market, if it wanted to remain within it.

But he said it was less clear what the impact of leaving the EU would be on areas such as anti-discrimination laws.

He said: “I think the bigger implications are likely to be the economic consequences – another recession, unemployment, spending cuts.

“That’s what people will feel far more immediately and sharply.”

He said the loss of EU funding for services and research would also have a dramatic affect.

Professor Peter Beresford, co-chair of the national service-user network Shaping Our Lives, said that disabled people faced “at least a double whammy” as a result of the referendum vote, because they were “likely to become further direct targets of increasing social and economic insecurity and of course support services will be badly hit if the negative economic consequences of Brexit are proved to be true”.

He said that groups committed to social justice and social inclusion “should not take the results of the referendum as a done deal, but instead continue campaigning for a just settlement and continued freedom of movement for people”.

The disabled people’s organisation Inclusion Scotland warned that “extremely turbulent times lie ahead”.

It said: “The reality now is that the human rights, equality rights and workers’ rights that could not be removed while we remained an EU member are now no longer secure.”

It warned that the many third sector organisations that rely on European funding “appear to face a bleak future”, while further “swingeing” cuts to public spending now seem inevitable.

It called on Scottish disabled people and their organisations “to come together and work together” and “seize all opportunities – and there will be many because everything is now up in the air – not just to protect what we currently have, but improve on it”.

30 June 2016

 

 

Brexit vote: Disabled people speak of shock, horror and dismay

Disabled people have spoken of their horror, shock and anger at learning of the vote to leave the European Union in last week’s referendum.

Although many disabled people voted for Brexit, the vast majority of leading disabled activists were strongly in favour of remaining in the European Union.

One disabled campaigner, who asked not to be named, said: “I think the majority of disability rights campaigners are in or recovering from shock.

“There was a very strong campaign showing the benefits of EU membership to disability rights, but now that we have left the EU we know very little about what will happen next.

“It feels like the carpet has been pulled out from underneath us and we’re not sure whether the bare boards we’re now looking at are stable.”

In a blog for Disability Now, John Evans, one of the founders of the UK independent living movement, said the day of the referendum would “go down as the blackest day in the modern history for disabled people in the UK and for our human rights”.

He said he was “dismayed, horrified and heartbroken about the consequences facing us and it is hard knowing which way to turn”.

Miro Griffiths, a former project officer for the European Network on Independent Living (ENIL) and now a lecturer, researcher and teacher, said the vote meant that the connection between disabled people in the UK, their European supporters, policies “that reflect the aspirations of the independent living movement”, and “decision makers that would collaborate with us” had been “severely damaged – possibly beyond repair”.

He said: “Disabled people in the UK will become further marginalised as the state begins to dismantle social justice frameworks and destroy the support systems that – currently – do not meet the needs of those who require them.

“The most startling factor to consider is that the majority of those who voted unwittingly accepted this.”

But Rick Burgess, of Manchester Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “I think it’s important not to let the fear and panic the media and politicians are spreading distract us from the fight that is the same today as it was before: to reclaim and reinforce our human rights.

“That struggle is probably going to be harder now, so we have to both increase our resolve and to make sure we look after one another.

“Our advantage is we have been fighting for many years already, we are seasoned and experienced survivors, we are ahead of many non-disabled people who are only now just waking up to the threat from the far right.”

The disabled crossbench peer Lord Low told fellow members of the House of Lords that there was a strong case for a second referendum, as called for in a petition on parliament’s website that by last night (Wednesday) had secured more than four million signatures.

He said he believed the “leave” campaign had won the vote on what was “an essentially fraudulent prospectus”.

He said: “They said that we could continue to trade with the EU on very similar terms without having to accept freedom of movement.

“They said that there would be no adverse economic consequences, but we are already beginning to see them.

“They made completely unrealistic promises as to what could be done with the resources saved from our EU contribution, and, most glaringly of all, with breath-taking cynicism and within hours of victory they were maintaining that they never said that Brexit would enable them to reduce the level of immigration.”

The referendum result drew immediate support for disabled people in the UK from the two main Europe-wide disabled people’s organisations, the European Disability Forum (EDF) and ENIL.

ENIL said it felt “sadness, disbelief and dejection” at the vote, emotions which it said were shared with the UK independent living and disability rights movements.

It said: “We are deeply concerned about the prospect of disabled people in Britain being worse off and hit by further cuts.

“Although discrimination and inequality affect many disabled people throughout Europe, there are numerous EU initiatives that have had a positive impact on our lives and have created a stronger legal basis to protect our rights.”

It said it would “not leave our British disabled brothers and sisters behind and will do everything in our power to support them in their fight for independent living”.

It added: “ENIL respects the democratic right of the British people to decide on their EU membership.

“However, we are adamant that a strong human rights agenda throughout Europe is better achieved together.

“ENIL will continue and intensify its collaboration with disabled people in the UK.”

EDF said it accepted the result of the referendum with “regret”, and also promised to continue to work with disabled people’s organisations in the UK.

Yannis Vardakastanis, EDF’s president, said: “EDF will continue to promote unity and solidarity within the disability movement all across Europe and will work very decisively on our common values against Euroscepticism, xenophobia, racism and all kinds of discrimination.

“From this, we won’t exclude any people with disabilities or their organisations because of political choices.

“We will collaborate with all organisations of persons with disabilities in Europe, including the UK, to ensure that Europe does not lose sight of the importance of human rights of all of its people: women, men, children, older people, persons with disabilities and people on the move across Europe and on our borders.”

30 June 2016

 

 

Tomlinson admits to ignorance about biopsychosocial model

The minister for disabled people has admitted to complete ignorance about the model that lies at the heart of his government’s programme of disability benefit reforms.

Justin Tomlinson was asked what his thoughts were about the biopsychosocial (BPS) model of disability in a question-and-answer session at a meeting of the all-party parliamentary disability group on Tuesday.

Ministers have repeatedly spoken of how the BPS model is central to their disability benefit reform programme, and successive governments have relied on it to justify slashing disability benefits for more than a decade.

Ellen Clifford, from Inclusion London, told the meeting – while Tomlinson was out of the room voting – that the BPS model would be “underpinning” the government’s health and work green paper, which will be published later this year.

She said that comments by new work and pensions secretary Stephen Crabb earlier in the meeting about the need for closer integration between work and health showed that this green paper would also be based on the BPS model.

She said BPS was a “punitive” approach which “locates the problem within the individual” and had been shown to be “not an effective way of supporting disabled people into employment”.

In response to her question, which was read to him on his return from voting, Tomlinson said that the BPS name sounded “really impressive”, and added: “I will let somebody much greater than me decide what’s the right thing.”

He then added: “I’m afraid I don’t even know what it is.”

Earlier this month, new research by three disabled academics concluded that the BPS model “does not represent evidence-based policy”, and was riddled with inconsistencies, misleading statements and “unevidenced” claims.

BPS under-pinned Labour’s new out-of-work disability benefit employment and support allowance (ESA) and its work capability assessment (WCA), which was introduced in 2008 and has since been linked repeatedly to health relapses, episodes of self-harm, and even suicides and other deaths, among those who have been assessed and found fit for work.

It has also “played a key role” in the tightening of eligibility criteria for ESA and other disability benefits by the subsequent coalition and Tory governments, and the introduction of the new personal independence payment and universal credit.

The three academics said in their research that the BPS model argued that it was “the negative attitudes of many ESA recipients that prevent them from working, rather than their impairment or health condition”, essentially branding many benefit claimants “scroungers”.

This allows supporters of BPS – including a string of Labour and Tory government ministers – to draw a distinction “between ‘real’ incapacity benefit claimants, with long-term and incurable health conditions, and ‘fake’ benefit claimants, with short-term illness”.

Clifford said after the meeting that the minister’s ignorance about the BPS was “really concerning”, because it had been pivotal to the government’s policies on disability benefits and was the “fundamental model on which welfare reform is based”.

She said: “Since 2010, that model has not only failed disabled people but caused untold avoidable suffering and harm.

“His response suggests that he doesn’t actually know what he is doing.”

30 June 2016

 

 

Disabled mum seeks ban on dangerous ‘snake-oil cures’ for autism

An autistic mum has secured more than 50,000 signatures in just two weeks for a petition calling on the government to ban the sale of dangerous chemicals that are being sold as “cures” for autism.

Emma Dalmayne says she has discovered dozens of “snake-oil salesmen” selling products which claim to cure autism, many of which can cause serious harm.

She has already reported four people to the police in the UK, including a mother who described online how she had been using the bleach-like product chlorine dioxide (CD) to “treat” her autistic child.

The Metropolitan police have been “conducting welfare checks” on the child, following a complaint made by Dalmayne about a woman in north London last week. She has also contacted social services about the family.

A police spokeswoman said yesterday (Wednesday): “Following an allegation of child cruelty, the Met’s sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command are currently making enquiries.

“Officers are in contact with the complainant and are making enquiries to establish the full detail of the allegation, and if any criminal offences have been committed.

“Officers are also working closely with other agencies, including social services, to ensure any safeguarding issues are managed appropriately.”

The US Food and Drug Administration has warned that using MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution, another name for CD) as instructed produces “an industrial bleach that can cause serious harm to health”, similar to products used to strip textiles and for industrial water treatment.

It says: “High oral doses of this bleach, such as those recommended in the labeling, can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and symptoms of severe dehydration.”

Dalmayne, who lives in south-east London and has six children – all of whom are neurologically diverse, including two with diagnoses of autism – runs a Facebook support group for other parents of autistic children.

She first came across MMS last year and was “horrified” by what she learned.

She says there are Facebook groups all over the world that offer support to parents who want to “cure” their children, while MMS is available for sale on eBay, and other products such as GcMAF are also widely available.

The people pushing the treatments, such as US author Kerri Rivera, often claim they rid the body of parasites they believe are responsible for causing autism.

The Facebook groups often feature concerns raised by parents who describe their children throwing up, having blood in their stools, skin rashes and nose bleeds after using the treatment, while Dalmayne says CD has led to bits of children’s bowels being stripped away, respiratory problems and severe dehydration.

One child in Florida had to have his bowel removed because of the amount of bleach he had been given, she said.

Dalmayne said she believes the push to “cure” autism is “hate speech” – equivalent to trying to cure gay people – and those responsible are guilty of disability hate crime.

She said: “Autism is not a curable condition. This should not be happening.

“It makes us in the [autism] community feel like we are under siege. There is so much out there that is being pushed to parents to try and eradicate us, basically.

“It is all about so-called normalising and driving autism out.

“If your child improves on any of these treatments it is because they are internalising [their behaviour] because they know that their mum or dad doesn’t want them to be themselves.”

Dalmayne said the Facebook groups make up a “horrible under-world” of people who are advised not to use their real names online, or say where they live, or to tell doctors, teachers or social workers that they are using the products on their children.

Dalmayne, who has written a book for parents that offers insights into life as an autistic person – It’s an Autism Thing… l’ll Help You Understand It – has already helped The Sun newspaper expose two people in the UK who were selling MMS.

One of her autistic children, eight-year-old Damien, said it was “sad” that people were selling these products.

He told Disability News Service: “It should be illegal.”

Now his mum wants the government to introduce legislation to ban advertising such cures to the general public, as was done with alleged remedies for cancer with the 1939 Cancer Act.

She says on her petition, which was launched earlier this month and by this morning (Thursday) had secured more than 50,000 signatures: “Currently there’s nothing to stop people marketing the false idea that autism is something that can be or needs to be cured. I think it’s time we change that.

“Autism is a neurological condition, it’s not something you can cure like an injury or illness.

“With the right professional therapies, people with autism can thrive, but there’s no product that can offer a magical ‘fix’.”

The Department of Health (DH) refused to confirm that it was not in favour of new legislation.

But a DH spokeswoman said that local authorities were responsible for using trading standards legislation to prevent the marketing of such products.

She said: “There is no place for the marketing of potentially harmful substances as ‘miracle cures’ for autism, and legislation exists to make sure local authorities prevent it from happening.”

She said that anybody who believes a child is being harmed, or is likely to be harmed, should contact their local authority and/or the police, while anyone aware of such products being sold online or in retail outlets should contact their local authority trading standards department.

She also said that the Food Standards Agency had issued advice to local authorities to take appropriate action in such cases and had placed consumer advice for oral products on its website.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said: “MMS contains sodium chlorite (bleach) and it has no proven, or conceivable, health benefit and we advise people not to buy this product.

“The Food Standards Agency has issued warnings to consumers advising against use of this product.”

It also said that GcMAF products “may pose a significant risk to people’s health”.

A spokesman said: “An investigation into GcMAF products is being undertaken after we found the manufacturing conditions unacceptable and the originating material unsuitable for human use.”

But the spokesman added: “MHRA has not stated that there should be new legislation to stop the supply of these products.”

30 June 2016

 

 

DPAC joins ILF court case trio in call for Labour to back Corbyn

Three disabled activists who took the government to court in an unsuccessful bid to stop the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF) have called on Labour MPs to halt their attempts to topple their party leader.

Anne Pridmore, Gabriel Pepper and Stuart Bracking have pointed out that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had been “unstinting” in his support for ILF-users throughout the campaign to prevent the fund’s closure.

The trio were joined by Paul Taylforth, the father of a fourth former ILF-user who was involved in the court cases, in raising concerns about developments within the party.

They sent an email outlining their concerns to Corbyn, deputy party leader Tom Watson, the shadow chancellor John McDonnell, the present and previous shadow ministers for disabled people, Debbie Abrahams and Kate Green, and Neil Coyle, a Labour MP and a former director of Disability Rights UK.

They pointed out that Corbyn issued a statement on the day ILF closed in June last year pledging to campaign for it to be reinstated.

Their court bids to overturn the government’s decision to close the fund were finally defeated in December 2014, prompting Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, to suggest that the move signalled “the end of the right to independent living for disabled people in the UK”.

They said in this week’s statement: “The democratic election of Jeremy Corbyn last September instilled hope among many disabled people and their families that the Labour party had turned a corner, and would campaign hard to stop further austerity and cuts to public services and benefits.

“A number of judicial reviews brought in recent years reflect the impact public service cuts are having on the lives of disabled people and their families.

“While legal challenges are sometimes successful, they cannot achieve the impact and change an effective political campaign can.

“Rather than sow further division, we would urge Labour MPs to remember who austerity and public sector cuts are hitting the hardest, and the lives now being destroyed by them.”

They said there was a “desperate need for unity” among working-class people and said the Labour party and its MPs needed to “consider their responsibility and duty of care towards those who will continue to face the consequences if we fail to end austerity now”.

They said this would only be possible if the party united behind Corbyn’s leadership and worked with trade unions and disability campaigners to “build a political movement to achieve this”.

This week, Corbyn lost a vote of confidence among his own MPs by 172 votes to 40, and now faces a leadership challenge from former minister Angela Eagle.

Yesterday (Wednesday), the former ILF-users were joined in their call by Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), which issued its own appeal to Labour members to back Corbyn.

In a statement on its website, it praised the “unstinting support” that Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell had given to both DPAC and disabled people.

It said: “Both have spoken out and voted against every horror the Tories have imposed on disabled people.”

McDonnell has sent a message to DPAC, urging all of its members and supporters “to support Jeremy if there is a leadership election”, and calling on non-members to join the party so they can vote for him.

Only last month, research by Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People suggested that the government’s failure to ring-fence the funding it was handing to local authorities following the ILF closure was leading to a “postcode lottery” of support for former ILF-recipients.

ILF was funded by the Department for Work and Pensions, and by last year it was helping nearly 17,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently.

But ministers decided it should be scrapped, promising instead that nine months’ worth of non-ring-fenced funding would be transferred to councils in England and to devolved governments in Wales and Scotland, to cover the period from its closure last summer to April 2016.

The Scottish government has set up its own ILF for existing recipients in Scotland, while the Welsh government has set up a ring-fenced, local authority-run grant scheme that will run until at least 31 March 2017.

The minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson, announced in February that the government would provide another four years of transition funding to local authorities in England in 2016-17 (£177 million), 2017-18 (£171 million), 2018-19 (£166 million) and 2019-20 (£161 million), but that the money would again not be ring-fenced.

30 June 2016

 

News provided by John Pring at www.disabilitynewsservice.com