Crippen hears that disabled activist Doug Paulley is taking the government to court again

Fellow disabled activist Doug Paulley is taking on the government again with legal action over its “disrespectful” and “unlawful” approach to seeking our views on the proposed national disability strategy.

Doug, who is taking the legal action along with three other disabled people told Disability News Service (DNS) that the controversial survey, carried out by the Disability Unit, did not give them and other disabled people the chance to say what they really felt about what should be in the strategy.

There has been continuing controversy over the strategy and the survey over the last three months, including why the survey included a question that asked non-disabled people if they would be “happy to have a physical relationship with a disabled person”, and concerns about it being rushed, inaccessible, over-long and poorly-planned.

Doug argues that the survey is unlawful because it offers only limited information about the strategy and does not allow disabled people to provide a “proper and effective response”. They want the consultation to be declared unlawful, and for there to be a new, lawful consultation before the government publishes its strategy.

Doug added: “The secretary of state’s approach to consulting disabled people, on a national strategy which aims to ‘transform’ the lives of disabled people, is immensely disrespectful. This survey has not given disabled people any meaningful opportunity to do so, and therefore any strategy developed from the survey will be imposed on disabled people without their voices being heard.”

In its usual dismissive way the government has apparently told Bindmans, the legal firm retained by Doug and his colleagues,  that the survey is not a consultation – even though the Disability Unit’s own website lists the survey as an “Open Consultation” and the survey is hosted on the unit’s “Consultation Hub” – and that it is not obliged to consult disabled people about the strategy!

We’ll be watching Doug’s progress with this latest legal battle against a government that clearly has a disturbing, not so hidden agenda for disabled people.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Disabled activist Doug Paulley, wearing a red t-shirt with ‘cripes it’s a crip’ printed on it, is coming up behind Justin Tomlinson, Minister for Disabled People, and Boris Johnson, waving a piece of paper with High Court action written upon it. Behind him is a large crowd of people waving banners, one of which reads disability survey farce. Tomlinson is speaking to Boris out the side of his mouth and is saying: “I think we’re in the shit Boris – Doug Paulley has a habit of winning!”

Crippen looks at the many breaches of disabled people’s rights

The so called minister for disabled people, Justin Tomlinson has refused to apologise for as many as 24 breaches of disabled people’s rights – and probably even more – by the government in the 12 months since the first COVID-19 lockdown.

Disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) and activists this week described to Disability News Service (DNS) their shocked reaction at the number of breaches, and said that each example represented a profound injustice done to disabled people by the UK government. It also provides fresh fuel for calls for an independent inquiry into the disproportionate number of deaths of disabled people during the pandemic.

As previously blogged, Tomlinson failed to carry out meaningful engagement with DPOs during the early months of the pandemic, while his Disability Unit failed to provide updates on its website for months at the height of the pandemic, while thousands of disabled people were dying from COVID-19.

The list of breaches also includes the government’s decision – early in the pandemic – to discharge hospital patients into care homes without testing them for COVID-19, causing the loss of thousands of lives of disabled and older people.

This was later mirrored by the decision of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to draw up a strategy that allows patients infected with COVID to be discharged from hospitals into residential homes, as part of a so-called “safe discharge” scheme regulated by the Care Quality Commission.

The list also includes the decision to place those disabled people seen as clinically extremely vulnerable to the virus as low as sixth on the initial list of priority groups to be vaccinated.

There is also growing evidence – some of it revealed at this month’s TUC Disabled Workers’ Conference – of government departments refusing to allow many disabled staff to work from home during the crisis, forcing them to attend potentially infectious workplaces, and refusing other reasonable adjustments.

Another major breach of disabled people’s rights came with the government’s repeated failure to provide vital COVID-related information to Deaf and disabled people in an accessible format, including the refusal to provide an on-stage British Sign Language interpreter at televised ministerial briefings.

Ellen Clifford, a member of the national steering group of Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC), said that each breach “represents a profound injustice done to disabled people by the UK government”.

She said: “Despite the hardships and tragedies of austerity and welfare reform, at no point in my lifetime has it been so clear as it has become through this pandemic, how dispensable disabled people’s lives are held to be and how quickly and easily our rights can be cast aside when it becomes politically expedient to those in power.”

A complete list of breaches, compiled by DNS, is included in their article.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A young black woman is standing alongside of a young white male who is sat at a computer. On the wall is a sign that says ‘disabled people’s organisations’. She is pointing at the screen which shows an image of the disability unit with a photo of Justin Tomlinson. The young man is saying to her: “No there’s nothing wrong with your internet – it’s just that the disability unit’s web site hasn’t been touched for ages!”

Crippen discovers restrictions to disabled youngster’s right to education to remain

It appears that the government is to abandon measures that ran “a coach and horses” through the right to social care during the pandemic. However, similar restrictions imposed on disabled young people’s right to education are set to remain.

The measures were all part of the government’s emergency Coronavirus Act, which became law a year ago today, on 25 March 2020, and will remain in place for at least two years from March 2020, unless suspended or repealed by ministers.

Recently, more than 20 disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) wrote to health and social care secretary Matt Hancock to ask him to suspend the so-called “Care Act easements”.

These measures have allowed councils to suspend their legal duty to carry out detailed assessments of disabled people’s care and support needs, and their legal duty to meet all eligible care and support needs.

As reported in Disability News Service (DNS) Ministers said earlier this week that they wanted to end the Care Act easements … however, there is no mention in the review document or a government press release of measures – also introduced through the Coronavirus Act – that have provided powers to restrict disabled children’s rights to education over the last year.

These measures gave the education secretary the power to amend parts of the Children and Families Act (CFA) 2014 so that a local council only had to use “reasonable endeavours” to provide the education, health and social care needs named in a disabled pupil’s education health and care (EHC) plan. They also gave the education secretary the power to amend CFA so that a school would no longer have a duty to admit a disabled child if that school was named in the child’s EHC plan.

Simone Aspis, policy and campaigns coordinator of the The Alliance for Inclusive Education (ALLFIE), said yesterday that the government’s decision to keep the education powers but scrap the Care Act easements was “absolutely inconsistent”, and she called on Williamson to “do the right thing and remove the CFA easements immediately”.

She said the last year had been “dire” for many disabled children and young people and their families because they have not been receiving the support they need to access mainstream education, because of both the pandemic and the CFA easements. We are hearing that whilst those measures may not be put in place, local authorities are still getting the message that they are able to depart from their duties by not arranging provision.

“It is very serious in terms of the impact. It could end up with more and more children being out of school, being denied access to education and falling behind in the progress they could be making, and not having the same opportunities. We could be finding ourselves with a lost generation of disabled people as a result of this.”

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A family comprising of a young white couple with a young child are standing in the desert wearing ragged clothing. Alongside of them is a large cactus with a sign on it saying, education desert. A large cow skull is set in the sand at their feet and the sun is beating down on them creating long shadows. Also, at their feet is a torn up document that reads EHC Plan. In the distance are two people. One is an Asian man dressed in a suite, the other a white woman in similar clothing. The woman is holding a placard that reads ‘your right to an education’. Another sign is being held by the man that reads ‘education secretary’. The air is also moving around these two figures. The young man is saying to his partner: “They’re just a mirage I’m afraid!”

Pandemic backlog means PIP claimants could lose support while waiting in queue

Latest catch-22 scenario from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) comes to light as claimants of disability benefits who successfully overturned decisions at tribunal are being told their support could still be cut off.

This means the government is effectively “punishing people for having asserted their right to a fair hearing in court”, according to one welfare rights expert reported in Disability News Service (DNS).

Apparently, because of a shortage of assessment personnel and a backlog of claims caused by the pandemic, the process to get the tribunal rulings enforced is grinding to a halt. Claimants of personal independence payment (PIP) who previously secured awards at benefit tribunal hearings are being told their payments will stop if their new PIP claim has not been approved by the time their award ends.

They are also being told that if PIP assessment providers Atos and Capita are not able to complete their assessments and pass their recommendations to DWP by the end of their fixed term, their payments will automatically stop. Which means that if Atos and Capita don’t do what they’re paid obscene amounts of money to do, these multi-million pound companies get off Scott free whilst the claimants gets penalised.

Finn Keaney, welfare rights team lead for Mind in the City, Hackney and Waltham Forest, said: “The government should not be punishing people for having asserted their right to a fair hearing in court, but that is exactly the effect that current policy has.”

Yet another story highlighting the moral bankruptcy of the DWP … why are we not surprised?!

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A young black male is stood in front of a desk clutching a back-dated benefits tribunal award. A sign on the wall says ‘we don’t give Atos’ indicating that they are in the office of the infamous benefits assessment company used by the DWP. Behind the desk is a smug looking white male in a suit and tie. The desk has several in-trays all stacked with PIP awards. An out-tray is empty. Behind the Atos man are two large sacks of money with a label attached saying ‘from DWP’. The young black male is saying: “So let me get this right – because you can’t be bothered to do your job, we lose our benefits!” The Atos man replies: “And your point is?!”

Crippen hears that Scotland could be set for ‘ground-breaking’ move on UN convention

We hear through Disability News Service that disabled people in Scotland could be set for “ground-breaking” improvements to the “protection, progression, and promotion” of their human rights, after their government pledged to incorporate the UN disability convention into Scottish law. 

The promise came as the Scottish government accepted the 30 recommendations made in a report by the National Taskforce for Human Rights Leadership.

Among the taskforce’s recommendations is to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – as well as three other UN human rights treaties – into Scots law, although it recognises that there would have to be a “progressive” realisation of these rights.

Heather Fisken, Inclusion Scotland’s director of policy and research, said: “Disabled Scots have been calling for full and direct incorporation of the convention for years.

“This is ground-breaking stuff, and it signals greater protection, progression, and promotion of our human rights. We will be calling on the new Scottish government to ensure that disabled people are closely involved in the development of the bill and that this happens as early as possible in the next parliament.”

As you’ll be aware, UNCRPD is currently not incorporated into UK law. This means that its protections, including article 19, which provides a right to independent living, are not legally binding in the UK, although they can influence UK court decisions.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A young Asian female wheelchair user is looking rather cheekily at a young white male wearing a tartan kilt. At their feet is a piece of paper with ‘Scotland to include UN convention in law’. He is standing with his hands on his hips, striking a pose, and is saying: ”Well if it means wearing a kilt to get our full human rights – then I’m your man!”

Crippen says: All the world’s a stage … except if you’re disabled!

How to spend some £2.6 million on a stage that doesn’t even give a passing nod to current access guidance … but then again, why would a disabled person need to use it?

The build and design of Boris Johnson’s new media stage says more about him and his eugenically blinkered cronies than anything else. Why indeed would they even bother to make the platform accessible when as everyone knows, only the physically pure are capable of running this country.

Apart from having steps, with no provision for wheelchair access, there’s no handrail, no clear delineation of where the front of the stage is for visually impaired people, no provision for a BSL interpreter … the list goes on.

In a bit of quick thinking, a senior aid has said that the provision of a portable ramp is in hand … not sure when or what type though, or anything else really … er!

Jane Campbell, a disabled crossbench peer and wheelchair-user, told Disability news Service:

“A removable ramp is yet another bolt-on adaptation because nobody assumes there will ever be a disabled wheelchair-using prime minister … (this) sends out a clear message that, yet again, disability access is an afterthought. When will this discrimination by indifference end? It’s just not good enough. Are we really still that invisible?”

Deborah King, co-founder of Disability Politics UK, said the failure showed that “disabled people are not thought of as equals in the political decision-making process” and that disabled civil servants and politicians were being “systematically excluded from politics”.

Typical bloody disablist mindset of this and other governments.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Boris and his cronies are all crowded on to the new Tory media stage. Above them is a sign that reads ‘Making the UK great again’. In front of the stage is a large group of disabled people. A piece of paper at their feet reads ‘new tory media stage not accessible’. Boris is saying: “We’ve limited your education, restricted your work and independent living opportunities and got rid of all the equality legislation – what makes you think that you’ll ever get on this stage?!”

Crippen hears from our brothers and sisters at the TUC disabled worker’s online conference

The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, speaking at this year’s annual TUC disabled workers online conference about the government and their appalling record of a complete disregard of disabled people during the current pandemic, told conference:

“There was all that talk about herd immunity, survival of the fittest is what that says to me, and I think again we have to be honest, in this conference of all conferences, that the shadow of eugenics hangs over the whole debate, that some lives are cheaper than others … it is ugly and it is obscene, and I think it needs calling out, because never again should we be in this position where people’s lives are put on the line because of their disability.”

Speaker after speaker at the conference spoke out about how government decisions during the course of the pandemic have exposed entrenched discrimination and blatant abuse of disabled people.

Natasha Hirst, from the National Union of Journalists Disabled Member’s Council (NUJDMC), told conference: “Our exclusion is driven by political and social attitudes. We are not valued. When governments deprioritise us, so do employers and service-providers, and everybody else. We have experienced how easily in a crisis our human rights are discarded … they are not our rights if they are snatched away when we need them most.”

Read the full report of the conference in Disability News Service (DNS).

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A group of disabled people representing various ethnicities and impairments are standing under a large sign that reads TUC disabled worker’s annual conference. They are all wearing face masks. On the wall opposite them are large letters spelling out ‘shadow of eugenics’, The letters are casting a dark shadow across them. On the floor is a piece of paper with ‘government have no care for disabled people’ written upon it.

Crippen asks is protesting still a fundamental right?

Guardian journalist John Crace sums up the government’s current attitude towards protest in his usual witty style.

He writes: “The right to protest is a fundamental liberty, Patel insisted. Just so long as it wasn’t done in a way that was noisy or annoying to her. From now on, any protest must be done in a whisper – preferably between 11 and 11.15 in the morning – and only be on government-approved topics …”

Witty indeed, but perhaps bringing to our attention a leaning from government towards restricting even more of our most basic civil rights … like the right to protest.

While we’ve all been distracted by stories from the Windsor dynasty and how much Boris has spent on his new briefing room (how much?!) they’ve been pushing through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which has just had its second reading. Proposals to allow police significant leeway to stop protests on grounds including noise are included in the Bill.

Current Covid restrictions accepted, I wonder what would happen if we were to take to the streets again?

Any DANners out there interested in a chat?!

BTW, you can sign a petition online to protest the changes proposed in the Bill.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Two disabled protesters are being confronted by a police officer in full riot gear. He has put his finger to his lips and is saying Shhh. One of the protesters, a young Asian woman, carrying a ‘free our people’ placard is saying: “Didn’t he used to work down the local library?!” On the ground at the feet of the policeman is a piece of paper with ‘New Police Crime Bill means no noisy protests’ printed upon it.

Crippen hears about the fight to drag the WCA back into the light of day

Crippen hears how disability studies researcher, Mo Stewart, is continuing her campaign towards bringing the ongoing atrocity of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA) out of the dark corner that it’s been assigned to by this current government.

Mo’s focus is getting the disturbing findings of the Preventable Harm Project (the Project), and the question of the DWP having an ‘institutional reluctance’ to support disabled benefits claimants, back onto the political agenda … and, along with this, holding Iain Duncan Smith, the instigator of the brutal changes accountable for his actions.

Mo has now taken her fight for justice to the next level by contacting the influential Centre for Social Justice right-leaning think tank, which was set up by Iain Duncan Smith who Chairs the executive board. In an email to the Director for Work and Welfare, Mo advised:

“There seems to be an identified ideological confusion linked to ‘economic dependency and worklessness’, which is one of the five pathways to poverty identified by the Centre. The assumption and presumption that any disabled person who is not in paid employment has no contribution to offer society remains offensive in the extreme …

“Memorable political attacks against the disabled community by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for the Coalition government from 2010-2016 caused preventable harm, witnessed an increase of 213 per cent in prosecuted disability hate crimes, with no-one held to account for claims of ‘scroungers’ and ‘skivers,’; which was an abuse of authority and a despicable act when there was no evidence offered for this ideologically motivate claim.

“This is sinister, and is not helped by a think-tank claiming to be a Centre for Social Justice, whose extremes of reality has helped to guide the adoption of social policies which were guaranteed to cause death, despair and preventable harm to those in greatest need with, for example, the constant claims of success by the Chair regarding Universal Credit (UC), whilst disregarding all evidence of the preventable harm the enforced transformation to UC has created.”

Mo has agreed to keep us in the loop, so watch this space folks.

By the way, you can get a PDF copy of Mo’s article ‘What price preventable harm’ from the Centre for Welfare Reform, and you can order a copy of her book ‘Cash Not Care’ online.

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

Iain Duncan Smith is whimpering and hiding behind a large stuffed chair in the Conservative Party Headquarters building. On the floor At his feet is a copy of Mo Stewart’s book ‘Cash not Care’. Two colleagues are standing in front of the chair looking perplexed. One of them is saying: “It’s no good hiding every time you come across a copy of Mo Stewart’s book Iain!”

Crippen hears about the disabled fighter who sent in the bailiffs

A disabled benefits claimant has successfully sued Atos for negligence and failure of duty of care and then sent in the bailiffs when they failed to pay up, the Disability News Service (DNS) has revealed.

The claimant, known as Rebecca, went to the County Court to ask for compensation because of the two year fight she had to get her PIP reinstated, after it was wrongly stopped following a PIP assessment in 2018.

Fortunately, she had recorded her assessment which was listened to by an appeal panel, who then compared it to the assessor’s account of what had been said. The panel then found in Rebecca’s favour, restoring her entitlement to the enhanced rate of the PIP daily living component until 2023.

Rebecca was so angry at the treatment she had received from Atos that she sued them through the County Court for ‘mental distress, anxiety and hardship’. Atos made no attempt to defend the claim.

The County Court found in Rebecca’s favour and awarded her compensation of eight per cent of the arears and a further £1,000 in damages. The final total was £2,500.

When Atos failed to pay up, Rebecca arranged for enforcement officers to visit their offices in London, resulting in an extra £2,000 in costs to the company, which finally had to pay up.

Result!

You can read the full story on the DNS website

Description of cartoon for those using screen reading software

A white male in a grey suit and orange tie is being propelled into the air by a large mechanical boot kicking him up the back-side. He is wearing an ID tag which has ATOS printed upon it. At his feet are numerous failed PIP applications. He is also losing hold of a large sheet of paper which reads ‘County Court Order’. The extended arm of the mechanical boot comes from a large crowd of disabled people who appear to be controlling it. They are saying: “About time that these parasites got a kick up the back-side!”