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WELCOME TO ALL FELLOW CAMPAIGNERS for DISABILITY RIGHTS - a pan disability blog connecting my work with, EQUAL LIVES, the National Survivor User Network (NSUN) and the Survivor History Group.
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Protest, Norwich Job Centre

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Fatso Gets Militant!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Letters from my MP

In recent months I’ve had four letters from Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk. One about the mental health strategy implementation; one about the proposals for a lobbyist register enclosing the Minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, Chloe Smith’s response. Both of these use language carefully contrived to say nothing; and two about the Independent Living Fund.

The first letter below (in blue) is the fourth of recent responses from my constituency MP for South Norfolk, Richard Bacon (www.richardbacon.org.uk)

Dear Mr Cox
House of Commons London SW1A 0AA
18 December 2012

I realise that you are concerned about the measures announced by the Government to close down the lndependent Living Fund. I want to assure you that the government is committed to the concept of independent living, and ensuring that disabled people have maximum choice and control over the services they depend on.

However, having reviewed the role of the lndependent Living Fund and consulted informally with disability organisations, local government representatives, the Department of Health and working with the fund's trustees, the Government concluded that it was no longer appropriate for an NDPB operating as a trust to administer an increasing amount of social care funding in parallel to the mainstream care system administered by local authorities. That is why the fund was closed to new users in 2010. We committed to protecting funding for current users unfit 2015 and to a full consultation on how they would be supported thereafter.

The Government published a consultation on 12 July this year on the future of the lndependent Living Fund that closed on 12 October. This proposed that funding should be devolved to local government in England and to the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales from April 2015. This will ensure that the needs of all lndependent Living Fund users are met within a single cohesive statutory system in line with local priorities and local authorities' broader independent living strategies.

The Government is now considering the 2,000 responses received to the consultation and will respond as soon as practically possible. The future of the Independent Living Fund is important to get right, so the Government will take the time necessary to properly consider the opinions of each individual and organisation who responded.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Yours sincerely
RICHARD BACON MP

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And my reply sent today:

Dear Mr Bacon.

I must apologise for being remiss in failing to reply to your last three letters. I must also thank you for all four of your recent letters, written in some detail.

However, I must also respectfully disagree with much of the content of your letters. Your reply to me of 5th November, also dealing with the Independent Living Fund, said:
“...Ministers want to link the future of the ILF with the wider reforms to social care that are planned...giving disabled people greater choice and control through the new legal right to a personal budget.” In your letter of 18th December you say that the Government consultation on the future of the ILF which closed on 12th October this year will: “...ensure that the needs of all lndependent Living Fund users are met within a single cohesive statutory system in line with local priorities and local authorities' broader independent living strategies.”

But - you know full well that here in your own county local authority adult social care services were failing people in need of care even before the cuts made to services in March 2010. In your Parliamentary work (as presented on your website) relating to autism you said: “It has taken several years of prodding and cajoling before Norfolk County Council admitted there was a gap in its provision of services.” In your work relating to dementia you said: “...carers are often poorly supported, with few receiving their entitlement to a carer’s assessment and many unable to access good quality respite care or domiciliary care.”

In my own voluntary work with the Norfolk Coalition of Disabled People (However, I must make it clear I am not speaking for NCODP in this letter) I am in contact with other service users who provide much direct evidence of the extensive failures of Norfolk County Council’s Adult Social Care services. You also know from work with your constituents that an application for a personal budget here is a minor nightmare with many disabled people excluded. In my own case I am prevented from from getting a personal budget by the inequities present in the eligibility criteria. The sum of this is that because local authorities have been so decimated from all angles by ConDem policies, most recently Mr Pickles’ measures, they are going to be completely unable to take on the ILF functions. The letter to Sunday’s Observer by three council leaders reinforces this and indeed goes as far as to warn that the cuts will bring “civil unrest.”

In you letter to me of 6th August 2012 dealing with mental health you talked of the voluntary agencies working with the Department of Health to
“...help turn the No Health without Mental Health strategy into a reality.” However, I must point out to you that their support for Government strategy is conditional. For example, one of those above voluntary agencies with which I also work, NSUN (National Survivor User Network for mental health) says: ”NSUN has also sought to work constructively with government in efforts to improve the situation where we find allies. Standing up to government policies we believe damage mental health while seeking to increase the positive influence of service users in government is a difficult line to tread...While we are very glad to have had the opportunity to promote this approach, it is not to say we agree with everything in the framework and much depends on whether it is implemented, not least by other government departments including the Department for Work and Pensions, whose benefit changes are badly hurting many people with mental health conditions...NSUN will monitor the implementation, partly through our new Mental HealthWatch scheme, whereby service users get involved in their local scrutiny groups and share intelligence and good practice. If we find that the health secretary's oft-quoted mantra "nothing about me without me" is indeed just empty rhetoric, we will not hesitate to withdraw our support and campaign vigorously against those who have wasted a valuable chance for progress.“ I think it would be useful to you to have a look at the contents of the NSUN website (www.nsun.org.uk). Again in your Parliamentary work reports you have said: ”If CRHT teams are to be effective, they must be properly resourced and fully integrated into all aspects of acute mental health care. Otherwise provision of mental health services will continue to be patchy”. Indeed, the reports of your Parliamentary work indicate that you have many views independent of Government.

On the whole then, I am disappointed that my constituency MP largely trots out ConDem mantras in his letters to me - instead of expressing his undoubted personal views about people in distress exemplified by this report (again from
http://www.richardbacon.org.uk): “Richard’s wife Victoria is joining him for the last week of his visit to Tanzania. They will travel together to Kagera in the north of the country, to look at the work of a charity called ‘Friends of the Children of Tanzania’. FoCT provides support to orphans, vulnerable and disabled children and their carers in this part of Tanzania. This visit is of special interest to the Bacons as Victoria and her twin sister, Sarah, are the founders of a recently established charity called “Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope”. Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope has been set up to raise money to provide young amputees in the developing world with essential operations and prosthetic limbs...Kathy Peach, Head of External Affairs, VSO UK said: “Our partner ANSAF will be making use of Richard’s valuable skills and knowledge in lobbying and influencing policy. He, like all our MP’s, will be working with disadvantaged people in some of the poorest communities in the world, helping them to get their voices heard by decision-makers. We hope their VSO experience will provide both Richard and Victoria with a unique and valuable insight into development issues which will inform their work back in parliament and across East Anglia.”

Following my discussion with you in Diss earlier this year, although holding antipathetic views to your own, I came away impressed with your overall humanity. We now have a campaign group which is a member group to NCODP. Our group is DPAC Norfolk (http://www.facebook.com/DPACNorfolk?ref=ts&fref=ts) We meet at the Vauxhall Centre in Norwich. Would you be willing to come and talk to us at one of our meetings?

Yours sincerely.

Mike Llywelyn Cox.




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