Tag: Article 19

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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Prime minister dismisses UN inquiry into government’s discriminatory treatment of disabled people

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has asked David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions today to publish the details of the Government’s response to the United Nations inquiry into the allegations that Conservative policies are breaching the rights of disabled people in the UK. He also asked if the government intended to co-operate with the inquiry.

Such UN investigations are conducted confidentially by the UN and officials will not confirm or deny whether the UK is currently being put under scrutiny.

However, the ongoing inquiry been widely reported by disability rights groups and campaigners. The Department for Work and Pensions has previously declined to comment on the possibility of an investigation.

Mr Corbyn used his final question to ask about the United Nations inquiry into alleged “grave or systemic violations” of the rights of disabled people in the UK. The PM gave a dismissive response, saying the inquiry may not be “all it’s cracked up to be” and said that disabled people in other countries do not have the rights and support that “they” [disabled people] in the UK are offered. Cameron also implied that Labour’s “strong” equality legislation was a Conservative policy. However, the Equality Act was drafted under the guidance of Harriet Harman.

Jeremy Corbyn asks about David Cameron about his response to the UN inquiry at Prime Minister’s Questions

The United Nations team of investigators are expecting to meet with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, members of parliament, individual campaigners and disabled people’s organisations, representatives from local authorities and academics.

The team will be gathering direct evidence from individuals about the impact of government austerity measures, with a focus on benefit cuts and sanctions; cuts to social care; cuts to legal aid; the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF); the adverse impact of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA); the shortage of accessible and affordable housing; the impact of the bedroom tax on disabled people, and also the rise in disability hate crime.

Mr Corbyn said:

“This is deeply embarrassing to all of us in this house and indeed to the country as a whole. It’s very sad news.”

The Government’s approach to people with disabilities had been extremely controversial and been met with criticism from campaign groups. Disabled people have borne the brunt of austerity cuts, losing more income and support than any other social group, and this is despite the fact that Cameron promised in 2010 to protect the poorest, sick and disabled people and the most vulnerable.

In 2013, Dr Simon Duffy at the Centre for Welfare Reform published a briefing outlining how the austerity cuts are targeted. The report says:

The cuts are not fair.

They target the very groups that a decent society would protect:

  • People in poverty (1 in 5 of us) bear 39% of all the cuts
  • Disabled people (1 in 13 of us) bear 29% of all the cuts
  • People with severe disabilities (1 in 50 of us) bear 15% of all the cuts

The report outlines further discrimination in how the austerity cuts have been targeted. The report says:

The unfairness of this policy is seen even more clearly when we look at the difference between the burden of cuts that falls on most citizens and the burdens that fall on minority groups. By 2015 the annual average loss in income or services will be:

  • People who are not in poverty or have no disability will lose £467 per year
  • People who are in poverty will lose £2,195 per year
  • Disabled people will lose £4,410 per year
  • Disabled people needing social care will lose £8,832 per year

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said at the  Conservative party conference speech in Manchester that disabled people “should work their way out of poverty.”

The Work and Pensions Secretary has been widely criticised for removing support for disabled people who want to work: by closing Remploy factories, scrapping the Independent Living Fund, cuts to payments for a disability Access To Work scheme and cuts to Employment and Support Allowance.

The reformed Work Capability Assessment has been very controversial, with critics labeling them unfair, arbitrary, and heavily bureaucratic, weighted towards unfairly removing people’s sickness and disability benefit and forcing them to look for work.

The bedroom tax also hits disabled people disproportionately, with around two thirds of those affected by the under-occupancy penalty being disabled.

The United Nations have already deemed that the bedroom tax constitutes a violation of the human right to adequate housing in several ways. If, for example, the extra payments force tenants to cut down on their spending on food or heating their home. There are already a number of legal challenges to the bedroom tax under way in British courts. In principle the judiciary here takes into account the international human rights legislation because the UK has signed and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

The right to adequate housing is recognised in a number of international human rights instruments that the UK has signed up to.

UN rapporteur Raquel Rolnik called for the UK government last year to scrap its controversial bedroom tax policy. Rolnik’s report was dismissed as a “misleading Marxist diatribe” by Tory ministers, and she had been subject to a “blizzard of misinformation” and xenophobic tabloid reports.

The DWP’s sanctions regime has also been widely discredited, and there has been controvery over death statistics, eventually released by the Department after a long-running refusal to release the information under freedom of information law.

The Daily Mail has already preempted the visit from the special rapporteur, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, who is spearheading the ongoing inquiry into many claims that Britain is guilty of grave or systematic violations of the rights of sick and disabled people, by using racist stereotypes, and claiming that the UN are “meddling”. The Mail blatantly attempted to discredit this important UN intervention and the UN rapporteur before the visit.

Meanwhile, Cameron seems very keen to play the investigation down, and dismiss the impact of his government’s “reforms” on the lives of sick and disabled people.

We are a very wealthy, so-called first-world liberal democracy, the fact that such an inquiry has been deemed necessary at all ought to be a source of great shame for this government.

 

United Nation’s investigation in the UK concerning the human rights of disabled people- submission deadline

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I reported last year that the UK is to be investigated formally by the United Nations because of allegations of “systematic and grave” violations of disabled people’s human rights.

In August I wrote that officials from the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) are to visit Britain. The inquiry is confidential, and those giving evidence have been asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.

A United Nations team have arrived in the UK and it’s understood they will visit Manchester, London, Bristol, as well as parts of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The United Nations team are also expecting to meet with the Equality and Human Rights Commission, members of parliament, individual campaigners and disabled people’s organisations, representatives from local authorities and academics.

The team will be gathering direct evidence from individuals about the impact of government austerity measures, with a focus on benefit cuts and sanctions; cuts to social care; cuts to legal aid; the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF); the adverse impact of the Work Capability Assessment (WCA); the shortage of accessible and affordable housing; the impact of the bedroom tax on disabled people, and also, the rise in disability hate crime.

In 2013, Amnesty International condemned the erosion of human rights of disabled people in UK, and the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights conducted an inquiry into the UK Government’s implementation of Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – 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 highlighted just how little awareness, understanding and employment of the Convention there is by the (then) 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 UN’s committee on the rights of persons with disabilities. (UNCRPD.)

“This finding is of international importance”, said Oliver Lewis, MDAC Executive Director, “Our experience is that some 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 was 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 the full report.) The Committee’s view is that the CRPD is hard law, not soft law. 

In August, I wrote about how the inquiry was triggered by campaigners and groups using the convention’s optional protocol, (which the last Labour government signed us up to, in addition to the convention.) The protocol allows individuals (and groups) who are affected by violations to submit formal complaint to the UNCRPD.

The deadline for evidence submissions to the UNCRPD is thought to be 31 October.

Contact details are here.