In earlier PPlog posts I have campaigned against discrimination against people with mental health problems by NCODP and the inexplicable collusion with it by CEO Mark Harrison (in all other aspects a hugely respected campaigner for disability equality and human rights).
This time however, it’s unqualified praise for NCODP and Mark for their stand against the proposed government actions creating disability inequality. The NCODP paper is posted below:
Norfolk’s disability community fights back against government’s cuts to services and unfair, discriminatory and regressive policies
The Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People (NCODP) is a human-rights group controlled by disabled people and their organisations. NCODP organises and takes part in campaigns and run services that promote social equality and dignity for all disabled people.
The new Coalition Government has taken a number of decisions that will negatively affect the life chances of disabled people. It is for this reason that the NCODP trustees took the following decision at their meeting in July. :
That NCODP will pursue a public campaign against cuts in service provision, and cuts in benefits, which reduce the life chances of disabled people.
That NCODP agrees with the approach of pursuing opportunities presented by personalisation in social and health care by negotiation with relevant providers and partners. This work should be embedded in operationalising the NCODP mission statement and subject to presentation of relevant analysis for the Board of Trustees.
NCODP supports the general policy direction and drivers which create opportunities for independence, citizenship and equality for disabled people. The personalisation of services is a key policy driver which DPOs support. Disabled people do not want to be treated as ‘special cases’ or be stuck in welfare dependency or excluded from the mainstream. However, the world is not an equal or accessible place for disabled people. The policies being pursued by the coalition government in its first hundred days will not promote or achieve disability equality. Rather it will have the opposite effect.
The government decisions being referred to are:
Many of the policy announcements in the budget will increase the inequality experienced by disabled people. Regressive taxation affects poorer people disproportionately so measures such as the rise in VAT will increase the poverty experienced by many disabled people. Under equality laws, we believe the government should have assessed whether its budget proposals would increase or reduce inequality for disabled people. So does Teresa May, who warned the Chancellor of the Exchequer that cuts imposed in the June Emergency Budget may be in breach of the Equality Act 2010. This is because they would have a disproportionate effect on women, pensioners, ethnic minorities and disabled people. Furthermore, she said, "If there are no processes in place to show that equality issues have been taken into account in relation to particular decisions there is a real risk of successful legal challenges."
HYPERLINK "http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/conservative/georgeosborne/7927623/Theresa-May-warned-Chancellor-his-Budget-could-hit-women-hardest.html" http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/conservative/georgeosborne/7927623/Theresa-May-warned-Chancellor-his-Budget-could-hit-women-hardest.html
A cut in mortgage payment support, involving a loss of £1,300 annually for every £100,000 borrowed, could result in 64,000 disabled people losing their homes.
Around 59,000 disabled people use the benefit to help them pay their mortgages. A further 5,000 people have used the state payments to secure niche mortgages to pay for shared ownership homes provided by housing associations.
David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said, "The government says that it will try to protect the most vulnerable as it makes spending cuts, but this policy will hit thousands of people with disabilities, cutting off many from the prospect of owning their own home."
In many cases the decision to curb the payments from October will strip from the most vulnerable people a chance of leading an independent life.
HYPERLINK "http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/aug/09/mortgage-benefit-cuts-disabled-housing" http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/aug/09/mortgage-benefit-cuts-disabled-housing
Other proposed measures in the budget, including changes to housing benefit, will affect the income of disabled people which will put their ability to pay higher rents and the tenancies at risk.
The newly announced proposals to cut the Supporting People budget by up to 40% will have a significant impact on the most vulnerable disabled people.
Independent Living Fund
The Independent Living Fund (ILF) - which provides financial support to disabled people with high support needs to support the cost of their personal assistance, and is separate from social care funding - is essentially closed for business. Disabled people in work have been prioritised in the short term.
The potential problems these decisions give rise to are significant. As the ILF's own equality impact assessment of the decisions notes:
Giving priority to people who are in paid employment of at least 16 hours a week has the potential to adversely affect people in terms of race, gender and age. Disabled people who are from ethnic minority communities, women and young are less likely to be in paid employment. People with learning disabilities are also less likely to be in paid employment. By giving priority to people who are in paid employment ILF will no longer normally accept applications from people in receipt of Income Support and similar benefits. Therefore the change is also likely to adversely affect people who are at a socio-economic disadvantage.
The costs of meeting the social care needs of disabled people who previously could have applied for the ILF will instead fall to local authorities or will not be met.
It's not efficiencies. It's not bloated public spending or welfare dependency. It's disabled people not being supported to meet the most basic elements of day-to-day life - getting out of bed, making a cup of tea, or going to the supermarket – being active and equal citizens.
Disability Living Allowance
The Poverty, Worklessness and Welfare Dependency report is good on noting the inbuilt disadvantage that many groups of people face. For example, it notes that disabled people:
Are more likely to live in poverty (29% of families live in poverty when at least one family member is disabled, compared with
20% of families with no disabled people) (p8)
Are more likely to live in persistent poverty compared to non-disabled people (11% compared to 5%) (p18)
Are less likely to be in work (over half of disabled people do not work) (p9)
Are less likely to have formal qualifications (24% of disabled people have no formal qualification) (p12)
But the report then doesn't note the factors which lead to these institutional barriers. The effect is to create a suspicion that disabled people are not trying hard enough to gain a qualification or get a job.
It is worth noting that at no point does the report define what DLA is for - DLA helps with the additional costs of disability, primarily related to personal care and mobility. It is for people under 65, though you can continue to be in receipt of DLA over the age of 65 if you have it before you are 65. Attendance Allowance is the equivalent for people over 65. Both are non-means tested.
The Coalition Government are drawing exactly the wrong conclusion about DLA from its own report. For example,
For example, the report notes that "over one in five DLA claimants are in the top two income quintiles (when DLA is included as income and no account is taken of extra costs of disability)". DLA is designed precisely to take account of the extra costs of disability/impairment. Secondly, and taking the figures at face value, they tell us that over 20% of DLA claimants are in the top 40% of income distribution. That is, 80% of DLA claimants are in the bottom 60% of income, meaning that DLA is targeted exactly at those disabled people who live in relative poverty.
Incapacity Benefit and Employment
The Coalition Government is cutting spending on incapacity benefit (IB)/Employment and Support Allowance (ESA). These benefits are for sick and disabled people between 18 and 65 who because of ill health or impairments are unable to work. Currently 2.6 million people receive IB or ESA.
The previous government's similar effort to cut back incapacity benefit, led to disabled and seriously ill people being deemed fit for work. This included people with advanced Parkinson's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, with severe mental illness and those awaiting open heart surgery.
HYPERLINK "http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jun/28/welfare-incapacity-benefit-claimants-assessment%20" \t "_blank" HYPERLINK "http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jun/28/welfare-incapacity-benefit-claimants-assessment" \t "_blank" http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jun/28/welfare-incapacity-benefit-claimants-assessment
The results of this are that disabled people will have their living standards cut, be forced into low paid and often inappropriate ‘Mac’ jobs or be excluded from claiming benefits because they are not ‘actively seeking work’.
Along with cuts to IB, massive cuts are being proposed to spending on social services. The latter provides most of the funding for the personal budgets that allow disabled and older people to live independently in the community. Less funds and a stricter criteria for receiving social care will mean increased hardship for a great many disabled people. The threshold for eligibility for personal budgets and access to services has been raised so high that many disabled people, especially people with mental health issues, have been excluded from receiving support when they need it.
NCODP knows that some benefits are well-focused and support precisely those people who face institutional barriers to equality and independence. The ILF and DLA are both key to disabled people moving out of ‘welfare dependency’, accessing training and gaining employment. They are not welfare benefits, they are to compensate for the extra cost of being disabled – being discriminated against by the barriers to accessing the world equally with fellow citizens.
The Government suspends and takes no further action on the proposed changes in implementing cuts and welfare reform until they have actively consulted with Disabled Peoples Organisation's (DPOs). These consultations need to be broad and in depth and be in accordance with a recognition that Equality Impact Assessments are integral to any proposed changes in welfare reform.
Implement the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) particularly through ensuring legislation is in place that fully supports disabled people’s rights and by working in partnership with disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).
Raise the status of disability within government - move the Office for Disability Initiatives (ODI) out of Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) into the Office of the Prime Minister or Dept. of Justice at the very least - and give disability to a Secretary of State.
Ensure that public bodies implement the disability equality duty.