Crippen reveals that the five week wait for Universal Credit is completely unnecessary

Have you heard the expression ‘evidence blindness’? Well, let me give you a clue; it’s what’s happening within our welfare system and in particular with regard to the large, unnecessary delays to benefits payments. And its chief architect Iain Duncan Smith now admits that it’s not even necessary!

Our journalistic friend Anoosh Chakelian, who’s had her teeth into Duncan Smith on more than one occasion, caught up with him again at a recent works and pensions select committee. He’d just told them that (the delay) was “never originally part of the structural plan for Universal Credit … and was completely unnecessary”.

This payment delay is one of the most damaging features of the welfare system, and which in some cases, owing to glitches in the system or a wait for a work capability assessment, this delay lasts even longer than five weeks and has led to many deaths amongst disabled claimants.

According to a report by the Social Security Advisory Committee, which warned against the extra “waiting days” proposed in 2015, a main consideration in the decision-making process was “… the need to deliver savings”.

It was also designed to mimic the month a regular salaried employee waits for their first pay cheque, which again is not evidence-based as more than half of Universal Credit claimants (58 per cent) were in fact paid weekly or fortnightly in their last job before claiming, according to research by Lloyds Banking Group.

In an article in the New Statesman, Anoosh writes: “ To continue shoehorning people into the spending and saving rhythms of monthly salaried workers exposes the same evidence-blindness as the return to sanctions and conditionality announced by the government on 29 June.

Such topsy-turvy policy-based evidence is at the heart of Universal Credit’s design, exposed more than ever by the new Covid-19 wave of claimants.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

An Asian woman is standing in front of Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) and is holding a large sheet of paper that reads ‘IDS says a 5 week wait for benefit is not necessary’. On the floor at her feet is another sheet that reads ‘thousands of disabled claimants die waiting for payment’. IDS is saying to her: “But who gives a shit about a few disabled people dying?!”. In the background a large, angry mob is approaching. They are carrying a banner stating that they are ‘the alliance for Covid 19 benefits claimants’.

Crippen puts the Coronavirus expense bill into perspective

According to government figures the Coronavirus will have cost us an estimated £69 billion by October 2020. Sounds a lot, but let us put it into some perspective shall we …

Back in 2009 this government paid out £500 billion to bail out the bankers.

The cost of renewing Trident was another £200 billion.

The cost of HS2 so far is £106 billion.

And let’s not forget the government’s own estimate that over £70 billion is owed by their tax dodging friends!

Just saying!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A huge balance, like a seesaw dominates the page. On one end are several large sacks which contain money spent on Trident at £200 billion pounds, bank bailout at £500 billion pounds, and HS2 at £106 billion pounds. At the other end is a single sack containing estimated money spent on the pandemic at £69 billion pounds. On the floor beneath the balance are two other sacks. One contains £70 billion pounds owed in unpaid taxes and the other one reads ‘money saved by cutting services ???’. At the end of the balance which has the single sack, Boris Johnson and Demonic Cummings are stopping it from tilting down at the weighted end. The balance is already starting to bend with the weight at the other end. Boris is saying: “Well that looks pretty balanced to me!”

Crippen and how the government breached disabled people’s rights during the pandemic

Mike Smith, the former disability commissioner of the Equality and Human Rights Commission and now chief executive of the east London disabled people’s organisation Real, said the government’s pandemic strategy appeared to be to “protect the majority rather than those most at risk … (and that disabled people) are not a priority for the government”.

Mike’s comments came after the Disability News Service (DNS) published a list to highlight how the government has repeatedly failed to protect disabled people during the pandemic; to help push the government into launching an urgent inquiry to learn lessons from its handling of the crisis; and to try to persuade it to take a new approach before an expected second wave of the virus this winter.

The list of 17 breaches include restricting disabled people’s rights in its emergency Coronavirus Act and failing to ensure disabled people on direct payments had access to personal protective equipment. The research by DNS shows repeated breaches of the Equality Act, the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

Some of the 17 breaches have cost many lives, particularly the delays in testing social care staff for coronavirus and the decision to discharge hospital patients into care homes without testing them for COVID-19.

Although about half of the failings were eventually addressed – usually in response to campaigning by disabled people, often working alongside lawyers – others were not.

There are also concerns that even those breaches of rights that were addressed could re-emerge if the country’s public services are threatened this winter.

To read the full report by DNS which includes the list of 17 breaches please click here

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson, with Demonic Cummings standing close behind him is standing in the dock. A high court judge wearing the death penalty black cap and holding a hangman’s noose is pointing to a list of crimes. The list is headed up ‘guilty’ and lists – Emergency Coronavirus Act restricts rights to care and education and rights of people with mental distress, delays in testing care workers resulting in disabled people becoming infected, vital public health info not provided in accessible formats, and 14 other crimes. Boris is looking worried and is saying: “How do we get out of this one Dom?” Cummings is replying: “Erm …”

Crippen reports that two thirds of those that have died during pandemic are disabled people

It’s official!

Disabled people have made up two-thirds of coronavirus deaths in the UK, according to the latest figures by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and they say that we’re also 11 times more likely to die of the virus than non-disabled people.

Despite all of the procrastination and refusal to release figures regarding the deaths of disabled people during this pandemic, the government have had to agree that the figures released by the ONS are accurate and reflect badly upon their lacklustre attempts to protect ‘the vulnerable’ as they’ve taken to calling us!

This has all been compounded, I’m sure, by the stripping back of social care and the virtual annihilation of services for disabled children. Also, According to figures released by the Guardian, hundreds of thousands of disabled people were left out of emergency benefit increases, while food parcels were withheld from people missed off the government’s list for having the “wrong” disability.

All too predictably, the price of Johnson’s early failure to contain the spread of the virus has been paid by those that could least afford it. The mass deaths of disabled people in this country should not be acceptable nor forgotten.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson is standing behind the briefing podium with its familiar hazard signs on the front saying, ‘stay home’ and ‘protect the NHS’ and ‘save lives’. At his feet is a copy of the Stun newspaper that states that the Tories have cut services to disabled people.  On the wall behind him is a large notice which reads ‘disabled people have made up two thirds of coronavirus deaths’ and ‘disabled are 11 times more likely to die of virus’. Boris is saying: “It’s natures way of weeding out the weak – we’re just helping it along!”

Crippen reveals what has happened to some ex Remploy workers

Remember when Arlington Automotive bought the final three Remploy sheltered factories and took on the disabled employees stating that they were committed to equality and diversity in the workplace?

Well, just two months after the government put the country into lockdown, Arlington entered administration and sacked more than 50 disabled staff, replacing them with non-disabled agency staff. The long-serving disabled staff who were sacked were mainly those with learning difficulties.

Disabled members of staff told the Disability News Service that most of them were informed off their dismissal over the phone whilst in Birmingham, others were escorted by security “bouncers” when they arrived to clear out their lockers of personal possessions.

Administrators for the company, which supplies companies like Jaguar Land Rover, told staff at its Birmingham and Coventry factories that Arlington would not be able to honour their redundancy agreements, and that they would instead have to claim much lower levels of compensation through the government.

For former Remploy workers, they could now be receiving tens of thousands of pounds less than they were expecting, with one long serving employee seeing his expected payment plunge from £75,000 to £16,000.

GMB regional organiser Rebecca Mitchell said that: “This is some of the lowest behaviour we’ve ever seen from a firm; sacking disabled workers over the phone and then trying to take away their hard-earned redundancy payments. Arlington Automotive is pushing disabled workers into the gutter … it appeared that the company was trying to get rid of all its workers with learning difficulties”.

To read the full Disability News Service article, please click here.  

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Centre picture is a white male wearing a grey business suit and carrying a briefcase with the letters AA embossed upon it. His arm is outstretched, and he is pushing a young white man into an open drain at the side of the road. There are eyes in the dark drain peering up and a large sign with an arrow pointing down saying ‘Disabled employees’. On the wall of the building behind him a large sign reads ‘Arlington Automotive’ and a sign in a nearby hedge reads ‘Remploy Factory – SOLD’. On the floor at their feet is a torn up ‘redundancy package’. The businessman is saying to the young man: “Welcome to our fast track employment scheme!”

Crippen asks – how soon before they change us from being vulnerable to being expendable?!

The use of negative language to describe disabled people has once again been challenged. This time it is Baroness Jane Campbell who has called for an end to the term ‘vulnerable’.

In an article in the Disability News Service (DNS) Jane said the term had been used repeatedly to describe disabled people during the “worst times” of the pandemic crisis.

But she said that many disabled people placed in the category of “vulnerable” or those who were told they needed to “shield” – as she has – had been forced instead to campaign for their basic human rights throughout the pandemic because the concept of “vulnerability… simply serves to anonymise our humanity and human rights”.

She pointed to the use of Care Act easements under the Coronavirus Act that led to disabled people losing vital care and support; the use of “frailty scoring” to prioritise ventilation and intensive care treatment; and GPs “ringing around asking the vulnerable if they wanted to consider a DNR on their notes”.

She said: “It began to feel like there was only a very short walk from being one of the ‘vulnerables’ to the chilling club of the ‘expendables’.”

She added: “It certainly didn’t feel like we were sheltered. Far worse.

“We were definitely not sheltered from the worst effects, with more than 13,000 older and disabled people having died from COVID-19 in care homes across England.”

She said the term “vulnerable people” made her feel “uneasy”, “exasperated” and “wounded” because it conjured up “weakness, victimhood and a cry for others to take responsibility for us”.

Baroness Campbell said “vulnerable” was used instead of words such as “human rights”, “equality” and “service entitlement to those who need them”.

She demanded that local councils and central government stop using the word “vulnerable” to describe disabled people.

“As of today, we (should) rid ourselves of the term ‘vulnerability’.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A young wheelchair user is about to be given a large label by a man in a grey suit. The label reads ‘vulnerable’. Boris Johnson accompanied by Dominic Cummings is standing alongside and is holding out an alternative label with ‘expendable’ printed on it. Boris is saying: “Hang on – we’ve got a new label upgrade for them!”

Crippen receives confirmation that inequalities experienced by disabled people have widened during the pandemic.

A new report – An Affront to Dignity, Inclusion and Equality – produced by a group of disabled academics has confirmed that the inequalities experienced by disabled people have widened during the pandemic.

The report concludes that the government’s policy making has breached its duties to disabled people under both the Equality Act and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

The academics, from the Oxford University’s Disability Law and Policy Project and its Bonavero Institute of Human Rights, have also called on the government to launch an immediate enquiry into why so many disabled people have died during this time.

Reported in the Disability News Service (DNS) the report makes 22 recommendations, including a call for an “immediate” review of legislation introduced by the government during the crisis, as well as an inquiry to “understand the scale of COVID-19 related deaths and to examine why this group has carried such a heavy burden” through the pandemic.

It also calls for the government to set up a Response and Recover Group, made up of disabled people and representatives of disabled people’s organisations, to ensure disabled people are “central to decision-making” on the country’s economic and social recovery.

The report also highlights the “social and human rights” failings of the government’s pandemic response, which left many disabled people with high support needs unable to access food without leaving their homes, despite being at significant risk from the virus.

To read the full DNS article, please click here

Description for those using screen reading software

Boris Johnson and an advisor are sat at a large round table. Opposite them are a group of disabled people. On the middle of the table a projector is throwing an image on the wall which reads ‘An affront to dignity, inclusion and equality – a report from Oxford university’s disability law and policy project’. Boris is smugly saying: “What do you mean you’re serious academics? I thought you said you were disabled!” A disabled woman standing at the back of the group is thinking: “Wanker!”

Crippen asks, has this government lost its new Disability Unit?

Er hello … is anyone there?!

One would be forgiven for thinking that the new Disability Unit staff had all gone on holiday during this recent crisis. Not a single announcement has been made by them over the past three months, despite over 22,000 disabled people having died from the Covid 19 pandemic.

You’ll probably remember the press release that announced the setting up of this “exciting” new government department and that it would bebreaking down the barriers faced by disabled people”. The Disability Unit was intended to bring together the former Office for Disability Issues and other experts from across government, and has offices in London, Sheffield and Leeds.

Despite the mounting evidence of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on disabled people, the Disability Unit’s web page has remained silent since 2 April, with the minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson failing to use the page to speak out, report on progress or announce any policy developments to deal with the crisis.

Our friends at the Disability News Service (DNS) reports that there has been anger and concern at the Disability Unit’s failure from disabled activists and disabled people’s organisations.

Bob Ellard, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts, said: “This is a totally reprehensible failure while so many disabled people are dying and going through severe hardship. This government shows it just doesn’t care about us.”

Ian Jones, from WOWcampaign, said: “Two weeks ago we were left in no doubt that disabled people do not matter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission. This week we are being left in no doubt that disabled people do not matter to this Tory government.”

Tracey Lazard, chief executive of Inclusion London, said: “From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, disabled people have experienced discrimination, disadvantage and disproportionately high death rates, as starkly detailed in our recently published report Abandoned, Forgotten and Isolated.

“Central government, despite these dreadful inequalities, has mostly failed to involve, engage with and listen to disabled people and Deaf and disabled people’s organisations in planning the response to the pandemic … we see no evidence that the government is working with disabled people’s organisations on COVID issues or to develop the National Disability Strategy due to be completed in 2020.”

You can read more about the response from groups and organisations of disabled people by clicking here and reading the full DNS article.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

The scene is the office of the Disability Unit with a large desk dominating the space. Hiding behind the desk is Justin Tomlinson, Minister for disabled people. Large droplets of sweat are falling from him. At the door is a white male wheelchair user holding out a piece of paper on which is written ‘virus update – 22,000 deaths of disabled people’. A young black woman is standing in front of the desk and is saying to him: “I’m sorry Sir, but we seem to have mislaid the minister!”

Crippen reports on Manchester Coronavirus survey

A new survey by the Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel (GMDPP) has revealed that many disabled people in the City and surrounding area have experienced extreme hardship during the pandemic lockdown.

The survey, which is in keeping with other reports from around the UK showed that: “disabled people were being disproportionately affected by the pandemic”, experiencing social isolation, reduced social care support, issues relating to access to food, medicine and information, and a severe impact on mental health”.

The GMDPP, which is made up of 14 disabled people’s organisations (DPO’s), had 936 responses to the survey making it one of the largest surveys by and for disabled people centred on the pandemic.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) provided an impartial analysis of the data, and the findings confirmed the Panel’s assertion that “disabled people were being disproportionately affected by the pandemic”

Rick Burgess, Outreach and Development Lead of the Greater Manchester Disabled People’s Panel and the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, says: “We have made 13 key recommendations for improving the problems we identified … there is a lot of work to do to remove disabling barriers that have gotten worse over the last ten years and were made worse again in the pandemic”

Rick adds “However we as disabled people and our organisations and communities will not stop until our rights to a fully inclusive society are realised.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A small group of disabled people of differing impairments and ethnicities are positioned in front of a row of large stone slabs that are blocking their progress. The slabs represent barriers to society and carry text on them that reads barrier to inclusive education, barrier to accessible housing, etc. In the middle of the slabs, two new ones are being hammered into place by a huge mallet that has Covid 19 printed upon it. The new barriers read ‘Barrier caused by the impact on our mental health’ and ‘Barrier caused by reduced social care support’. One of the disabled people is saying: “Knocking them down? No – it’s adding even more bloody barriers!”

Crippen invites Dennis Queen to talk about her experience of the social model

Whilst some Disabled activists are calling for a re-examination of the social model of disability, Dennis Queen, disabled activist and singer song writer remembers her first encounter with this life changing concept.

Dennis writes:

I still remember how the social model understanding of disability helped me begin to make sense of my life, and the world. And here’s how it happened …

Even as a small child, I knew that people thought I was ‘wrong’ as a person – sort of damaged or broken. People kept trying to make me be more like everyone else and I was treated badly because I couldn’t conform. I thought that it was all my fault because people effectively blamed me for being ‘broken’.

In the late 1990s a disabled activist told me about the ‘Social Model of Disability’ and the epic story of how it came into being in the 1970s.

She told me I was not to blame for how I am treated – and that other people of all kinds who are seen as broken, or ‘impaired’, face similar oppression too. Many of them have formed a movement and work together to fight for changes like choices, control, inclusion, access, and freedom; everyone is welcome, and nobody is ‘wrong’.

This ‘disabled people’s movement’ challenged the causes of the harm, or oppression, that happens to us. The social model calls that oppression ‘disability’, and says it is caused by the barriers imposed within the world around us and its people. 

I was so excited to find out that we can fight back together against our shared oppression. Straight away, I joined my local Disabled People’s Organisation, the Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People (GMCDP) where I learned to help with campaigns and make music about our work. I fought for the things that allow me to be part of our society. I learned to say: “I am disabled” (and share an oppression) and to celebrate our work together proudly. I was taught so much by so many amazing disabled activists, both there and around the U.K, all who are my heroes. 

Over 20 years later, I still get a buzz telling people about the exciting story of the social model of disability, and how it brings all kinds of different people together to fight for our freedom and human rights.

This life changing, world changing idea has brought thousands of disabled people of all kinds together to campaign. For almost 50 years the social model still steers us towards asking the right questions when we are faced with oppression. Long may the social model continue to help disabled people fight back together, until all our people are free to live in dignity, with respect and with rights.

Dennis Queen

Disabled activist

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Disabled activist Dennis Queen is riding in a chariot in her wheelchair. The chariot has large blades projecting from the wheels and on the back has a large sign that reads ‘social model rules’. In the traces is a large flesh coloured horse with the head of Boris Johnson. He is grimacing as Dennis cracks a whip over his head and says: “Come on then Boris – get with the programme!” At the bottom of the cartoon it reads ‘Dennis Queen Boudica’.