Category: United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

Workfare coercion in the UK: an assault on persons with disabilities and their human rights – Anne-Laure Donskoy

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Anne-Laure Donskoy
is an independent survivor researcher, this paper was published by the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) for mental health, which is an independent, service-user-led charity that connects people with experience of mental health issues to give us a stronger voice in shaping policy and services.

In a report, titled Workfare coercion in the UK: an assault on persons with disabilities and their human rights, she provides an in-depth consideration of psychocompulsion as a series of state-sponsored human rights violations. I recommend that you read this discussion in full.

She writes: While there is a lot of focus on coercion organised and implemented in psychiatry, less attention is being paid to state engineered welfare measures based on libertarian paternalism, which have coercive practices at their core. Among them are policies that strongly support behavioural change using positive psychology and cognitive behavioural therapy. Freidli and Stearn (2015) call this ‘psychocompulsion.'”

“The narrative of welfare is changing drastically. As Friedli says, we are moving from a “what people have to do [to find work] to what they have to be [demonstrating the right attitude to be employable]”. This is exemplified through the new ‘Work and Health Programme’ planned to be rolled out in England and Wales. This programme has many strands, including:−

  • Embedding psychological services within Job Centres
  • Placing ‘job coaches’ within GP surgeries for people with certain conditions (specifically people with mental health issues): the ‘Working Better’ pilot scheme is funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and the coaches will be provided by welfare to work agency, Remploy (a welfare-to-work subsidiary of the Maximus).”

She goes on to say: “It has come to light that these new programmes are also the subject of ‘research’. The new Work and Health Programme is currently at a research and trialing stage. As Kitty Jones writes, “Part of the experimental nudge element of this research entails enlisting GPs to “prescribe” job coaches, and to participate in constructing “a health and work passport to collate employment and health information.”

However, this ‘research’ (if one can call it so), has been heavily criticised because it is not sanctioned according to the usual robust ethical guidelines. Research that adheres to robust ethical guidelines would absolutely seek not to cause harm to its participants, and would seek their informed consent beforehand. This is not the case here where claimants are the participants, involuntary and ‘unconsented’, of an experiment they know nothing about.

“There are a wide range of legal and Human Rights implications connected with experimentation and research trials conducted on social groups and human subjects.”

A spokesperson for Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), talked of the UN CRPD Committee’s visit to the UK and described the situation thus: It means the UN will examine the vicious and punitive attacks on disabled people’s independent living as well as the cuts which have seen so many placed in inhuman circumstances and has led to unnecessary deaths.”

There is a very detailed and important consideration of the implications of current UK policies within the context of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) throughout this excellent article.

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Related 

Cited on the article:

https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2015/11/28/the-goverments-reductive-positivistic-approach-to-social-research-is-a-nudge-back-to-the-nineteenth-century/– The idea that it is both possible and legitimate for governments, public and private institutions to affect and change the behaviours of citizens whilst also [controversially] “respecting freedom of choice.”

https://kittysjones.wordpress.com/2015/12/14/the-department-for-work-and-pensions-dont-know-what-their-ethical-and-safeguarding-guidelines-are-but-still-claim-they-have-some/

Friedli L, et al.MedHumanit2015;41:40–47. doi:10.1136/medhum-2014-010622

http://www.disabilitynewsservice.com/coroners-ground-breaking-verdict-suicide-was-triggered-by-fit-for-work-test/

(among other work)

Watch – And This time its Personal Psychocompulsion & Workfare from wellredfilms on Vimeo.

Other related:

Cameron’s Nudge that knocked democracy down: mind the Mindspace

Let’s keep the job centre out of GP surgeries and the DWP out of our confidential medical records

Nudging conformity and benefit sanctions

My work is unfunded and I don’t make any money from it. But you can support Politics and Insights and contribute by making a donation which will help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others.

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Thousands of disabled people have lost their specialist Motability vehicles because of Conservative benefit cuts and many more are likely to be affected

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In 2012, Esther McVey, then the Minister for people with disabilities, as good as admitted there are targets to reduce or remove eligibility for the new disability benefit Personal Independent Payment (PIP), which was to replace Disability Living Allowance. How else could she know in advance of people’s reassessment that 330,000 of claimants are expected to either lose their benefit altogether or see their payments reduced as she had informed the House of Commons?

This was a clear indication that the new assessment framework was designed to cut support for disabled people. A recent review led the government to conclude that PIP doesn’t currently fulfil the original policy intent, which was to cut costs and “target” the benefit to “those with the greatest need.”

That basically meant a narrowing of eligibility criteria for people formerly claiming Disability Living Allowance, increasing the number of reassessments required, and limiting the number of successful claims. The government have used the review to attempt to justify further restrictions to PIP eligibility, aimed at cutting support for people who require aids to meet fundamental needs such as preparing food, dressing, basic and essential personal care and managing incontinence. “Greatest need” has become an ever-shrinking category under Conservative austerity measures. 

McVey also said that around 200 disabled people in every parliamentary constituency were likely to lose their Motability vehicle when she changed the qualifying walking distance limit from 50 metres to 20-metres. 

And she pointed out that one of the Department for Transport’s own publications, Inclusive Mobility, recommends that “seating should be provided on pedestrian routes at intervals of no more than 50 metres, and that parking spaces for blue badge holders should preferably be provided within 50 metres of the facilities they serve”.

The Motability Scheme helped around 650,000 disabled people to lease specialist cars, wheelchairs and scooters. Anyone on the highest level of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA) was entitled to join the scheme which also helped to pay for expensive adaptations. Motability provides financial help (grants) to disabled people who would not otherwise be able to afford the vehicle or adaptations they need, and the charity undertakes a range of fundraising activities to contribute to the provision of financial help to those Scheme customers whose allowance does not cover the cost of the mobility solution that they need.

Last year, Motability revealed that around 100 disabled people claiming PIP are losing their crucial vehicle benefit every week.

According to Motability, who lease specialised cars and powered wheelchairs to disabled people, 3,000 out of 8,000 of their customers who have so far been reassessed for PIP, who were previously claiming the Disability Living Allowance, have lost their eligibility for the scheme and have therefore had to give up their vehicles.

Motability raised concerns that the government reforms to DLA would affect many more. It has.

Nearly 14,000 disabled people have had their mobility vehicle confiscated after the changes to benefit assessment, which are carried out by private companies. Many more, yet to be reassessed, are also likely to lose their specialised vehicles.

Under the new PIP rules thousands more people who rely on disability allowance to keep their independence are set to lose their vehicles. Many had been adapted to meet their owners’ needs and many campaigners warn that it will lead to a devastating loss of independence for disabled people.

A total of 45% or 13,900 people, were deemed as not needing the higher rate of PIP, and therefore lost their vehicles after reassessment. And out of the 31,200 people who were once on the highest rate of DLA who have been reassessed, just 55%, or 17,300 – have kept their car.

Given that many Motability vehicles are specially adapted to meet the highly individual needs of each person, I wonder what happens to all of those vehicles that are lost under the new restricted benefit eligibility criteria.

Around 51,200 disabled people have joined the Motability scheme using their PIP. Around 360,000 more people will undergo PIP reassessments and that will include “indefinite” or “lifetime” awards under the original DLA support.

Perhaps the government expect that severely and chronically ill people will miraculously recover, their progressive illness will stop progressing, maybe people will grow new limbs, find cures of their own where medical professionals and drug companies have failed and battle their “choice” of disability alone.

Being disabled is very expensive. The charity Scope has calculated that disabled people pay a huge financial penalty over and above the everyday living costs faced by the typical able-bodied person – on average £550 per month. One in ten pay more than £1000 a month over the odds.

Expenses range from door-to-door taxis to get around, extra heating costs, pricey specialist items like wheelchairs, hoists, or stair lifts. There may be extra laundry costs, continence aids, special dietary requirements, a need for home help and meals on wheels. Some disabilities place more wear and tear on shoes and clothing, some people need suitable kinds of footwear. Non-prescription medical items are also an additional cost. These are just a few examples of extra expenses. There are many more that most able-bodied people wouldn’t ever need to think of.

Liz Sayce, chief executive of Disability Rights UK, said: “Being disabled costs money.

The Personal Independence Payment is supposed to help with those costs, but many people are being denied the benefit because they are not assessed properly. Sometimes that means people lose their cars; a massive blow which impacts on their ability to remain independent, take part in their communities or get and keep a job.”

Recent research revealed that of all the appeals related to PIP, 60% of tribunals have ruled in the claimant’s favour.

Motability provides a support package, including a £2,000 grant, to anyone forced to leave the scheme following a PIP reassessment.

The charity added: “This helps individuals to remain mobile, in many cases by purchasing a used car. Motability has already provided some £16m in support through this transitional package.”

The Conservative claim that “Government is committed to supporting the most vulnerable” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, given the Conservative policy record, including cruelly scrapping the Independent Living Fund, which has had a hugely negative impact on those trying their best to lead independent and dignified lives, and the Access To Work funding has been severely cut, this is also a fund that helps people and employers to cover the extra living costs arising due to disabilities that might present barriers to work. 

Mr Duncan Smith said at the Conservative conference last year that many sick and disabled people “wanted to work” and that the Government should give them “support” to find jobs and make sure the welfare system encouraged them to get jobs. I’m wondering what the word “support” actually means to Conservatives, because there’s every indication that over the past five years, there has only been a withdrawal of essential support and lifeline benefits from those who need them the most.

Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities states that persons with disabilities have access to a range of in-home, residential and other community support services, including personal assistance necessary to support living and inclusion in the community, and to prevent isolation or segregation from the community. Article 20 states that Parties shall take effective measures to ensure personal mobility with the greatest possible independence for persons with disabilities, including by:

a) Facilitating the personal mobility of persons with disabilities in the manner and at the time of their choice, and at affordable cost;

b) Facilitating access by persons with disabilities to quality mobility aids, devices, assistive technologies and forms of live assistance and intermediaries, including by making them available at affordable cost;

c) Providing training in mobility skills to persons with disabilities and to specialist staff working with persons with disabilities;

d) Encouraging entities that produce mobility aids, devices and assistive technologies to take into account all aspects of mobility for persons with disabilities.

Article 28 requires that States Parties recognise the right of persons with disabilities to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their families, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions, and should take appropriate steps to safeguard and promote the realisation of these rights without discrimination on the basis of disability.

It’s difficult to see how the government’s cuts to lifeline disability benefits can possibly be consistent with their obligations to uphold human rights law. 

 

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The UN Inquiry into the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the UK – Commons Briefing

 

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The House of Commons Library have issued a research briefing, published on Wednesday January 13, 2016, regarding the UN Inquiry into the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the UK:

“The UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is conducting an inquiry into the impact of the UK Government’s policies on people with disabilities in relation to their human rights obligations. This briefing paper provides information on the Committee, details of the inquiry and an overview of the Government’s policies in relation to people with disabilities.

The inquiry is being conducted under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which the UK has been a signatory since 2007. The Optional Protocol allows the UN Committee to investigate a State Party if they have received reliable evidence of ‘grave and systematic violations of the Convention’.

Investigations by the Committee are confidential, and the process, extent and scope of this inquiry are unknown. However, it is believed the inquiry will consider policies introduced by the Coalition Government since 2010 in relation to welfare and social security benefits, and in particular their compatibility with Articles 19 and 28: the rights of persons with disabilities to live independently and to enjoy an adequate standard of living.

The UK is the first country to be investigated by the UN in relation to this Convention.

This paper gives some background to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention, as well as providing an overview of what we know about the UN inquiry. It then outlines a selection of policies introduced under the Coalition Government which have had an impact on people with a disability covering housing, education, welfare, justice, healthcare and employment.

The UN Committee report, along with the UK Government’s response, is not expected to be published until 2017.”

You can read the briefing in full here –The UN Inquiry into the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the UK

It’s also worth reading the two submissions to the inquiry from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, summarised by the UK Administrative Justice Institute and linked on hereEvidence of the impact of welfare reforms on disabled people

Many thanks to Samuel Miller for flagging this up and for all of his outstanding work.

The UK Government have got it wrong about our Human Rights.

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The Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights has conducted an inquiry into the UK Government’s implementation of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) – the right to live independently and to be included in the community. The inquiry which began in 2011 has received evidence from over 300 witnesses.

The inquiry has highlighted just how little awareness, understanding and employment of the Convention there is by the Tory-led Government.  Very few of the witnesses made specific reference to the Convention in their presented evidence, despite the inquiry being conducted by the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, with the terms of reference clearly framing the inquiry as being about Article 19 of the UNCRPD.

“This finding is of international importance”, said Oliver Lewis, MDAC Executive Director, “Our experience is that many Governments are of the view that the CRPD is nothing more than a policy nicety, rather than a treaty which sets out legal obligations which governments must fulfil.”

The report is particularly critical of the Minister for Disabled People (Maria Miller, at the time) who told the Committee that the CRPD was “soft law”. The Committee criticised this as “indicative of an approach to the treaty which regards the rights it protects as being of less normative force than those contained in other human rights instruments.” (See para. 23 in the report, the link is at the foot of this article.) The Committee’s view is that the CRPD is hard law, not soft law.

Dr Hywel Francis MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “We are concerned to learn that the right of disabled people to independent living may be at risk through the cumulative impact of current reforms. Even though the UK ratified the UNCPRD in 2009 with cross-party support, the Government is unable to demonstrate that sufficient regard has been paid to the Convention in the development of policy with direct relevance to the lives of disabled people. The right to independent living in UK law may need to be strengthened further, and we call on the Government and other interested organisations to consider the need for a free-standing right to independent living in UK law.”

“The Government is meant to include disabled people in making sure people have their human rights upheld. We are concerned that a part of the Law on treating people equally and fairly (Equality Act section 149) does not say any more that disabled people should be involved. This is a step backwards.”

In other words, the Tory-led Coalition has quietly removed this part of the Equality Act.

The budget of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which was established by the Labour Party when they were drafting this flagship policy, is being reduced by over 60%, its staffing cut by 72%, and its powers restricted by the Coalition. Provisions that are being repealed by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (ERR) Bill include the duty on public authorities to have due regard to the need to reduce socio-economic inequalities.

Savage Legal Aid cuts from April 2013 have also contributed significantly to creating further barriers to ensuring Equal Rights law protect us, and the Tory-driven Legal Aid Bill also contravenes our right to a fair trial under Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

This is not a coincidental multiple policy timeline, but rather a very coordinated political attack on potential legal challenges at a time when Tory-led severe and devastating multiple welfare and provision cuts have affected disabled people so disproportionately. The changes, which came into effect in April, will hit the same group of disabled people over and over again”.

The threats to the legal infrastructure make it all the more important to mobilise all disadvantaged groups around equality as a fundamental human right.

The Report draws attention to several significant Human Rights issues, including:

  • the need for freestanding legislation to protect the right to independent living in UK law,
  • the effect of current reforms to benefits and services on the ability of disabled people to enjoy independent living,
  • the role played by the UNCRPD in policy development and decision-making at all levels of government,
  • the need for the use of equality impact assessments,
  • the effects of devolution on implementation of the UNCRPD, and
  • hate crime

The right to independent living does not exist as a free-standing right in UK law. Although it is protected and promoted to some extent by a matrix of rights, the Committee believes that this is not enough. It argues that the Government and other interested parties should immediately assess the need for, and feasibility of, legislation to establish independent living as a free-standing right. In addition, the Committee concludes that the UNCRPD is “hard law” and that the Government should fulfil their obligations under the Convention on that basis.

The Committee finds that:

  • reforms to benefits and services (let’s be frank here, they are not welfare “reforms”, they are cuts) risk leaving disabled people without the support they need to live independently;
  • restrictions in local authority eligibility criteria for social care support, the replacement of the Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payment, the closure of the Independent Living Fund and changes to housing benefit risk interacting in a particularly harmful way for disabled people;
  • people fear that the cumulative impact of these changes will force them out of their homes and local communities and into residential care.

It also finds that:

  • the Government has not conducted an Equality impact assessment of the cumulative impact of current “reforms” on disabled people. The Report urges them do so, and to report on the extent to which these “reforms “are enabling them and local authorities to comply with their obligations under the UNCRPD.
  • The Committee states that the Government should make a commitment to Parliament that they will give due consideration to the articles of the Convention when making legislation. The UNCRPD did not have a significant role in the development of policy and legislation, as is required by the Convention.

Furthermore, the Committee criticises changes to the duties of public authorities in England under the Equality Act 2010, which no longer require the production of equality impact assessments of changes in policy, nor the involvement of disabled people in developing policies which will affect them.

The Committee also expresses a major concern over a growing incidence of hate crime against disabled people and urges the Government take action to foster respect for the rights and dignity of disabled people.

Article 19 states that the Government must always ensure it “stops things getting worse.” This has NOT happened. The quality of so many sick and disabled people’s lives in this Country has been radically, significantly and DELIBERATELY reduced since the Tory-led Coalition took Office in 2010. This needs to change as a matter of urgency.

The Government’s “reforms” have led to a terrible increase in deaths amongst sick and disabled people, and we have already seen a significant rise in suicides that are directly linked with the Tory-driven austerity measures.

When we genuinely seek to improve the situation of the poorest and vulnerable, first of all we will need to spend time studying the privileged elite and their lifestyle choices of tax avoidance, their own economic lasciviousness and lack of capacity for personal and social responsibility.

We need to pay attention to Government handouts (of our money) to banks, private businesses and the wealthy: we need to appraise the dependency and culture of entitlement that these sponsored acts have fostered, and of course special focus should be on the amoral decisions and anti-social actions of the feckless, scrounging wealthy, and with particularly careful, critical scrutiny of the Government responsible for policies that re-distribute and concentrate our wealth and their advantage and power, therefore creating social divisions, inequality and poverty, perpetuating and extending it.

The Tory-led Coalition prefers to take money from the vulnerable, the sick and disabled, and hand it out to millionaires.

We need to ask why our Government refuses to instigate or agree an inquiry into the substantial rise in deaths amongst sick and disabled people, as these deaths are so clearly a direct consequence of this Government’s policies. What kind of Government uses the media to scape-goat and stigmatise sick and disabled people, by lying and inventing statistics to “justify” the persecution of some of our most vulnerable citizens, and the withdrawal of their crucial lifelines and support?

One that does not value those lives, or regard them as having an equal worth with others.

We are raising more money for the rich” – David Cameron, 12th December 2012


Further reading:

Archbishop Tartaglia adds to protest against Atos assessments which ‘trample on human dignity’

The European courts have their priorities wrong. Why aren’t they stopping the disability deaths? – Mike Sivier, Vox Political

Did They Hope We Wouldn’t Notice? Under The Smokescreen – John D Clare

The Coming Tyranny and The Legal Aid Bill – KittySJones

CRPD IS “HARD LAW” – UK PARLIAMENT

The Summary of the Report on Implementation of the Right of Disabled People to Independent Living: easy read version  and the full length report

644117_408620012540866_785481358_nMany thanks to Robert Livingstone for his outstanding art work.